15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
Inspection of Meters
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take up with the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Ade laide, the matter of having telephone meters in Adelaide and suburbs overhauled, because in at least one instance - and I understand that it is not isolated - the number of calls registered was four times the number actually made! I have a letter bearing out that statement, and 1 ask that a thorough investigation be made.
-I give the honorable member the assurance that I shall be happy to have his complaint investigated. I understand that inspections are made regularly and at short intervals to check the accuracy of these meters, and 1 am surprised to hear that there is a possibility of calls being registered in excess of those that are made.
Report of Royal Commissionsuspension of Messes. Mehaffey and Orwin:Findings of Board of Inquiry and Executive Action Thereon.
– by leave - I lay on the table of the House the report of the Royal Commission regarding the Contract for the Additions to the General Post Office, Sydney.
As the result of the findings of the royal commission, the Permanent Head of the Department of the Interior charged Mr. M. W. Mehaffey, Director-General of Works, under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, with being negligent or careless in the discharge of his duties, and Mr. J. Orwin, Works Director, New South Wales, with improper conduct and being negligent or careless in the discharge of his duties. Both officers were suspended from duty.
These charges were considered by a Board of Inquiry consisting of Mr. R. Lawson, Chief Engineer, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Chairman; Mr. H. F. Morris, Assistant ComptrollerGeneral, Department of Trade and Customs; and Mr. G. A. Watson, Deputy Crown Solicitor, Sydney.
The Board of Inquiry found that the charge against Mr. Mehaffey had been proved, and that the charge against Mr.
Orwin of being negligent and careless in the discharge of his duties had been proved.
On the recommendation of the Public Service Board of Commissioners, the GovernorGeneral, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, made the following orders on the 25th August, 1939 : -
commonwealth proposals : ministerial Statement.
– In connexion with the proposals of the Government to prevent profiteering, is the Prime Minister prepared at this stage to say whether action will be taken by means of regulations or by special legislation, and when it is proposed that such action shall be taken ?
– by leave - The Commonwealth Government has decided to adopt measures for the control of prices and the prevention of profiteering.
The Government’s plans will make provision for -
The Commonwealth, under the longterm plan, will take power to control the prices of all commodities. There will be a central Commonwealth controlling authority, consisting of a Commissioner and two assessors. So far as is possible, it is desired that the existing machinery of the State Governments, amplified or modified where necessary, shall be used to give effect to the decisions of the Commonwealth authority, and I shall be conferring with the States about this on Saturday. Trade organizations will be used, as far as practicable, as advisory bodies.
As a matter of urgency, pending the appointment of the Commissioner, immediate action is being taken to deal with price exploitation in the sale of existing stocks. Prices of proclaimed goods or classes of goods will be fixed at the prices current on the 31st August. 1939. The Minister for Trade and Customs will be the authority under this plan to decide whether price increases are justified. In the case of refusal to sell at the prices current on the 31st August, and where the Commonwealth Government considers the circumstances justify it, power will be taken to acquire goods compulsorily for resale to purchasers. In the case of proclaimed goods, the order will be made retrospective to the 31st August, 1939.
Price control and prevention of profiteering will form part of the functions of the Department of Trade and Customs, and will be under the control of the Minister administering that department.
The whole question of price control will be discussedat the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers this week, with a view to ensuring the greatest possible co-operation, the utilization of existing State machinery,and the adop- tion of uniform principles andprocedure, in order to avoid undue disturbance to the business community.
– In order to allay the anxiety of the people of Australia, will t he Prime Minister now make the definite statement that there will be no conscription of Australian manhood for active ser vice overseas?
– I have repeatedly made that statement in the past, and I have no hesitation in again repeating it.
– by leave - As all honorable members are aware, the Government has, for some considerable rime, been expediting its defence preparations to the fullest possible extent. Every important matter requiring attention has been reviewed during the past eight months. Priorities were determined to enable preference to be given to the more urgent items within the increased funds available, the capacity of the defence machinery to handle the increases proposed, and the ability of government factories and industry in general to produce the things required. Similarly, all plans had been reviewed and the Commonwealth War Book practically completed, the result being that, when the war cloud recently burst, the defence position of the country marked a great improvement over the situation that confronted us in September, 1938.
The War Book plans of the Commonwealth provide that, when a threat of war arises, consideration is given by the Defence Committee to the institution of certain measures which are at once submitted for the Government’s decision. This was done on Thursday, the 24th August, and the Government’s decisions were communicated to the Defence Com mittee the same night so that all approved action could be taken forthwith.
One of the recommendations of the committee was that certain draft war legislation held in readiness at Canberra for a period of danger such as we were then passing through should be immediately approved, tentatively, under the Defence Act as pre-arranged. Similar legislation, from which our own emergency preparations had been adapted, was being enacted that day by the United Kingdom Government, and the Commonwealth Government decided that like action was necessary in Australia. As a result of this decision, the following emergency regulations under the Defence Act were passed by the Federal Executive Council next day: -
Defence (National Security - General)Regulations
Defence (National Security - Aliens Control) Regulations
Defence (National Security - Passport) Regulations
Defence (National Security - Ships and Air-. craft Transfer) Regulations.
The first of these regulations is farreaching in its operations, and contains all the general powers necessary for defence purposes during a national emergency. The other regulations mentioned are very necessary and self-explanatory in their titles. In addition, the Government approved, at the same time, the Defence (Monetary Control) Regulations and Customs (Export, of Money Prohibition) Regulations, all of which were important precautionary measures in the interests of the Commonwealth at that juncture.
The recommendations of the Defence Committee covered a wide field of defence preparations and precautions, and the prompt approvals given by the Government enabled much important preparatory work to be undertaken up to the adoption of the precautionary stage in the early hours of Saturday, the 2nd September.
Certain measures for the three defence services came into operation automatically on the adoption of the precautionary stage in accordance with War Book plans, whilst others were specially approved as circumstances necessitated.
Similarly, when the war stage was reached last Sunday night, and the Commonwealth was again at war with Germany for the second time within a quarter of a century, additional prearranged measures were automatically taken whilst others received special approval.
Although it is undesirable that details of the action taken should be made public at present, the present position in respect of the three services is briefly as follows : -
When the international situation began to cause grave concern, preliminary action was taken to place the ships and establishments of the Royal Australian Navy on a war footing. All ships were ordered to proceed to their war stations, and the initial steps for increasing the state of readiness of the naval forces were taken by accepting volunteers of the reserves; at the same time the work on ships refitting was accelerated, ships in reserve being brought to short notice. Certain officers on the emergency and retired lists were called in. Where necessary the forces to be stationed at outlying ports were conveyed to their destinations by air. Some merchant ships, after the owners’ consent had been obtained, were defensively armed. Concurrently, all British’ merchant ships in Australian waters were placed under the control of the Naval Board, but, at this stage, no alteration of routes or times of sailing was made.
Vulnerable points were placed under guard and, for this purpose, naval reserve volunteers were used. Communications between certain executive controlled points were, with the co-operation of the Postal Department, improved and accelerated.
On the 29th August, consequent upon Cabinet decision given on that day, the Naval Board gave orders for the Permanent Naval Forces to be placed on a war footing, and the Citizen Naval Forces to be mobilized.
Approval having been given by the Federal Executive Council of a proclamation calling out the Citizen Forces for war service, and approval of myself as Minister to anticipatory action by the defence services, the Australian Citizen Naval Forces were mobilized. These include the Royal Australian Fleet Reserve, the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, the Royal Australian Naval Reserve (Seagoing), and the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve.
On the receipt of approval given by myself to prevent the publication of information regarding movements of merchant shipping, and that the publication of all merchant shipping movements be prohibited under Defence (National Security - General Regulations, Part . 1, Regulation 17 (vi)), the appropriate action was taken. At a later stage, and before the outbreak of war! subsequent to the despatch of the Australian war telegram concurrent with the receipt of the Imperial war telegram, routing of merchant ships was extended to cover the world. Shipping was informed that certain lights and other aids of navigation might be discontinued without further notice.
On the receipt of further advice from Great Britain that the position had again deteriorated, the public traffic regulations were brought into force, and orders were given to institute the examination service at certain defended ports, including Port Moresby. This necessitated the requisitioning of vessels ear-marked for this purpose. British ships were warned not to proceed to ports of a probable enemy. Radio stations were taken under control and, in conjunction with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, censorship action was taken regarding amateur and other private radio stations. Volunteers were called for from the ranks, and ratings of all ex-service men not liable for service and time expired men were ordered to be retained.
As soon as the situation began to deteriorate, the appropriate army plans were reviewed. These plans were fortunately in a very advanced stage, as the result of an intensive process of staff work ‘that has been proceeding for the last two or three years, and the plans have been executed in the following ways : - It was necessary, at a very early stage, to supplement the officers of the permanent staff at Army Head-quarters, and in the head-quarters of districts and formations, by initiating the prearranged plan for employing a limited number of militia officers on full-time duties in the Intelligence Sections of the General Staff, and in administrative appointments. Since the outbreak of war the number of militia officers employed on these duties has been increased to undertake the larger volume of work at present involved.
At an early stage in the emergency, arrangements were made for the protection of important and vulnerable localities, such as places of military importance, wireless and cable stations, and railway bridges, by posting guards of militia volunteers, or by prior arrangement with the respective State Governments for the employment of members of the Police Forces. The State Governments co-operated most effectively in this and other important measures.
A nucleus censorship staff was established at a very early stage, in anticipation of the imposition of certain forms of censorship. Before the outbreak of war the Government imposed a censorship of postal and telegraph matter, and immediately after the outbreak imposed a general censorship on all communications to and from all places outside Australia, as well as a censorship on news broadcasting.
Arrangements have now been initiated for the registration of all aliens, and for the control and internment of enemy subjects. Internment camps are being established, and militia troops are being employed as guards. In addition, control of entry and exit from Australia is in force under the National Security (Passports) Regulations.
Before the outbreak of war, instructions were despatched to guide the military liaison officer in London, and the military authorities in India in arranging the return to Australia of permanent, militia and reserve officers in the event of war. Those arrangements are now in progress as follows : -
The military liaison officer, and his assistant at Australia. House, will continue their duties; officers of the Staff Corps serving in the United Kingdom have been made available for duties under the War Office, if required, subject to the concurrence of the Commonwealth Government; and officers not required by the War Office are returning to Australia. Officers of the Staff Corps who are on exchange duty in India will remain on that duty; but junior officers undergoing regimental training are returning to Australia. At the request of the Army Head-quarters in India, officers of the Indian Army who were on leave in Australia were ordered to return to India, and are now proceeding accordingly.
The largest and most important item of army action is the manning and protection of the fixed coast and anti-aircraft defences of the main ports. As soon as the emergency arose, these defences were manned continuously by Permanent Force troops of the Royal Australian Artillery, and the Royal Australian Engineers.
Arrangements were made for supplementing these permanent force troops by appropriate militia units or personnel of heavy anti-aircraft batteries, fortress engineer companies and signal sections. The arrangements included the employment of infantry for the immediate protection of the coast defences, and the provision of personnel of the Australian Army Service Corps, Medical Corps and Ordnance Corps to serve the troops on duty.
Immediately after the outbreak of war these arrangements were put into force by calling out the requisite number of troops under proclamation. These troops are at present called out for sixteen days’ war service ; and units and sub-units will be called up in successive drafts of approximately 10,000 each to maintain the scale of defence required by the present situation.
The Ais Force
At, the beginning of the present emergency the operational plans of the Royal Australian Air Force were reviewed and brought up to date. Subsequently these plans were brought into operation as the need for them arose.
During the period of tension, arrangements were completed so that the members of the Active Citizen Air Force and of the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve could be called up for duty at short notice.
Action was also taken to ensure that the necessary mobilization stores, equipment and buildings would be available to meet the needs of the service on mobilization.
During the precautionary stage the whole of the Active Citizen Air Force was called up and so also were such members of the Reserve who were necessary to bring units up to a restricted war establishment. This establishment is designed to put units on a footing to meet the particular scale of attack which might have to be met.
On the inception of the war stage, the Royal Australian Air Force was completely mobilized ready for active operations.
Certain civil aircraft are now being taken into Air Force service to augment the reconnaissance force.
Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force have been moved to their war stations, which are strategically disposed, and have been placed on short call for operations.
Advance operational bases have been prepared to enable squadrons effectively to patrol coastal areas liable to attack.
During the emergency period, members of the three fighting services have been transported by air in aircraft of the civil air line companies to reinforce certain isolated coastal areas. This has all been done with very commendable expedition and efficiency.
The production of aircraft and equipment of all kinds has been speeded up both inside the service and in outside factories. Workshops at Royal Australian Air Force stations have been working overtime since the beginning of the present emergency.
Arrangements have been made with factories outside the service for an increased rate of production of engines, air frames, and munitions.
Stocks of petrol, oil, bombs, ammunition and pyrotechnics in strategic areas have been reviewed and augmented where necessary. From the inception of the period of tension, guards have been mounted at each of the Royal Australian Air Force stations to guard against sabotage.
From the inception of the precautionary period of tension, guards have been mounted at the civil aerodromes at Archerfield, Townsville, Mascot, Essendon and Parafield. These latter guards, with the exception of the one at Archerfield, have been provided from army units.
With the co-operation of the PostmasterGeneral’s department communications have been perfected so as to ensure the effective centralized control in each strategic area of squadrons operating from advanced operational bases. In co-operation with the Army Intelligence Organization, the necessary measure of censorship has been imposed.
In conformity with action taken by the other services, a list of items normally exported which are essential for air force purposes has been drawn up and passed to the appropriate authority for action to be taken as necessary.
Arrangements have been made by the Air Board for officers on exchange duty overseas to continue such duty and for officers undergoing courses of training to return to Australia.
From this necessarily somewhat restricted statement I hope that honorable members will feel that Australia has taken all steps consistent with our first duty, that is, national safety.
– by leave-I thank the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street.) for the very full and, I am quite sure, welcome statement that he has made to the House and to the country regarding the steps which the Government has taken in order to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, the safety of the Australian, people may be provided for. I make the suggestion - and that is the reason why I did not ask a question - that regularly the Minister should make a statement to the House indicating the progressive steps that have been taken in relation to this most important and vital matter. I say to the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that it might be considered very serviceable if a motion could be moved on the occasion of the delivery of such a statement so that some opportunity could be provided - an hour, two hours or perhaps longer - for members of the Parliament either to criticize it, I hope usefully, or to make suggestions which may be of use to the Government. In that way it could be made clear that the statement is made not merely as a recital of what has been done but as an intimation to the Parliament that what has been done is for the Parliament to consider and even to express i ts mind thereon. It appears to me that in that way this Parliament may not only act, as it were, as the masters of the Government, in that the Government is responsible to the Parliament, but also we shall give every demonstration that in a democracy defence of the country is not a one-man job.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce investigate complaints by New South Wales poultry farmers that the price of wheat supplied to them has been increased by l1/2d. a bushel, and that even at the increased price it is difficult to obtain supplies? If necessary, will the Commonwealth take action to prevent exploitation of poultry farmers by wheatgrowers holding on to their wheat?
– I shall duly bring before the notice of the Minister the representations contained in the honorable member’s questions.
– Did the Public Service Board in considering the charges laid against Mr. Mehaffey and Mr. Orwin take into consideration, in extenuation of their conduct, the divergence of opinion between ex- Ministers and present Ministers regarding the signing of the Sydney General Post Office contract? Did the board take into consideration the very emphatic defence of the acceptance of the contract by the present PostmasterGeneral, and the then indecision of the present Cabinet as to whether the contract should be signed or not? Does the Prime Minister endorse the action of the Public Service Board in making a scapegoat of these two public officers ?
– Insofar as the honorable member’s observations constitute a question, I should like to say that to the best of my belief the board’ appointed under the Public Service Act took into account all relevant circumstances bearing on the charges made. Having done so judicially, it made a report. The Public Service Board made a recommendation in relation to that report and in turn the Government accepted that recommendation.
– In connexion with the recent inquiry into the holding up of the signing of the contract for additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, I ask the Prime Minister whether the honorable member for Calare has made any application to the Government for the refund of the legal expenses which he then incurred ? If so, has the Government made a decision on the matter ? If it has decided to pay the honorable member’s legal expenses, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the reasons which actuated it in doing so?
– I shall ascertain the facts and answer the honorable member’s question when the House meets to-morrow.
– Seeing that the world has now been plunged into war by the intolerance of certain individuals, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will reconsider the decision of the Public Service Board of Inquiry into the charges against Messrs. Mehaffey and Orwin, which resulted in the disrating of those officers ? In order to show a spirit of tolerance, will the right honorable gentleman restore these officers to their former positions?
– I am afraid that the answer to the honorable member’s question must be in the negative.
– I have a question to ask of the Postmaster-General, and by way of preface I remind the honorable gentleman that immediately Mr. Justice Maxwell made his report on the signing of the contract for the extensions to the Sydney General Post Office, the PostmasterGeneral was reported to have said that he deplored the wasting of time and money on the inquiry.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is supposed to be asking a question.
– I remind the honorable gentleman further of Mr. R. Lawson’s caustic reply to Mr. Orwin’s defence at the further inquiry that he adopted the usual procedure in signing the contract, which was as follows : - “ Yes, if you were ordering a dozen rat-traps “. Does the Minister, in the public interest, still deplore the time and money expended on this most important inquiry?
– In view of the fact, that the Government was in favour of the Sydney General Post Office contract, does the Prime Minister still think that Messrs. Mehaffey and Or win were justly penalized ?
– I have , nothing to add to what I have said. Tho decision was announced and I agreed with it.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development lay upon the table of the House the annual report of Dr. Harold Thompson, the Commonwealth Inspector supervising the fishing industry, and will he call for a special report on the development of the mullet fishing industry in respect of which Dr. Thompson has been making some investigations ?
– I shall see if the report, which I am not aware is a separate document, is of sufficient interest to lay on the table of the House. I shall also inquire to see if the report on mullet can be made available.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether Jewish refugees who have been admitted to Australia by the Government in recent months will be regarded as alien enemies under the Defence National Security Regulations? If so, what does he propose to do with them? Can he give me an assurance that only those German nationale and others who engage in subversive propaganda or activities against the best interests of Australia or the British Empire will be interned?
– Part of that question relates to matter which appears on the notice-paper to-day. In reply to the other part of it, only those persons who engage in subversive activities will be interned.
– In view of the international situation, is the Minister for External Affairs able to say what action the Government now proposes to take concerning the proposal to appoint Australian representatives at Washington, Tokyo, and other centres?
– The question of the further overseas representation of Australia is now under the consideration of the Government.
PURCHASE By Great Britain.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet completed negotiations with the British Government for the sale of the surplus wheat now in Australia?
– It has not. I hope to be able to make a general statement on these matters at an early date.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is correctly reported that the British Government has purchased the whole of the Australian wool clip ? If so, can the right honorable gentleman furnish details to the House?
– I am unable to make a detailed reply to the question at present; but I anticipate that, in the next day or two, full details will be furnished in a complete statement on the subject.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a contract has yet been made by the British Government for the purchase of Australian butter? If the contract has not yet been made, will the right honorable gentleman consult representatives of the dairying industry in regard to the matter?
– As I have already indicated, I hope that, a full statement on these matters will be made in the course of the next couple of days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in the sale of surplus food and raw materials to the United Kingdom, about which a brief statement has been made, the Government will see that the interests of France, an ally in the last war and in this war, and a country with which Australia has had a consistently favorable trade balance, are not lost sight of, and will receive favorable consideration.
– That consideration will be taken into account.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to confirm a report published in this morning’s press, to the effect that the Government of Japan has made certain representations to the British and French Governments concerning the war in China ? Can the newspaper report be substantiated?
– I have no information to confirm that report.
– I have received a letter from England to the effect that magnesium is the metal most needed at present in armament manufacturing in Britain. I understand that Great Britain has no natural deposits of magnesium. The great bulk of its supplies have been obtained in the past from Russia, Austria., the United States of America and Manchukuo. .War, and other circumstances, have cut off supplies from Manchukuo, Russia and Austria. It is pointed out in the letter I have received that in a few months imports of all forms of magnesium, which usually total about 4,000 tons a year and are worth £540,000, have dwindled to about half their normal proportions. In view of these circumstances, I ask the Minister for Supply and Development why the Government has refused to afford any assistance to the Australian Magnesium Company Proprietary Limited so that it may help to supplement British requirements?
– When the honorable member asked a question on this subject some time ago, the Commonwealth Government inquired from the Australian
High Commissioner in London whether the British Government had any particular interest in the magnesium produced in the dominions. I gave details of the reply received in my answer to the last question the honorable member asked on this subject.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to certain photographs which have been published in the press, concerning a proposal to demolish certain chimney stacks in Sydney? Is the action of the press, in publishing these illustrations, calculated to relieve certain foreign countries of the risk of maintaining their own system of securing information in this country ?
– I am not sure of the specific instance to which the honorable member has referred. Speaking generally, the press has shown a keen desire to co-operate with the Government in not publishing either news or photographs which may give useful information to the enemy. If the honorable member will bring a specific instance under my notice, T shall inquire into it.
– Has the Minister for Social Services yet formulated the plan promised about six months ago, under which pensioners will have the right to draw their pension by cheque?
– In conformity with the promise given some time ago, steps have been taken, and if the notices are not already in the post offices giving to the pensioners election of payment by cheque or in person at a post office, they will be there within the next few days.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development give the. House any information as to the possibility of rationing of liquid fuels?
– There is no necessity for rationing of liquid fuels in present circumstances, and there are no circumstances in sight which would justify the Government instituting rationing, but a scheme has been prepared to meet any eventuality. It has been discussed with the officers of the States, and will be further discussed with the Premiers when they meet at Canberra on Saturday.
– Is there any truth in the statement that the PostmasterGeneral proposes by some hind of pressure to prevent the Australian Broadcasting Commission from proceeding with the publication of its proposed journal? If such be the case, upon what grounds does the Minister propose to prevent the commission from pursuing its intention? Is it the intention of the Minister to ask Parliament to revoke the law which gives the commission entire authority to publish newspapers or bulletins if it wishes to do so?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “ ; obviously the second part does not stand.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development completed consideration of certain proposals, which, I believe, he has before him in reference to the establishment in Australia of the linseed flax industry? If so, what is the position? Is the industry upon Appian Way or down in the Pontine Marshes?
– The Government’s hand in the industry in question has been confined to research in collaboration with the industry. That research is going on satisfactorily, but has not yet reached conclusion.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the statements in the newspapers that the British cargo steamed Anking was destroyed off the north Pacific coast of China? Has the Minister any information which discloses the presence of enemy submarines in the south Pacific or Indian oceans ?
– I have seen the statements referred to. The answer to the second question is “ No “.
– In view of the Government’s decision to call up the Militia Forces in units for periods of more or less long duration, has the Minister for Defence made any arrangements with the State authorities that will ensure that the interests of trainees who are purchasing homes under home-purchasing contracts will not be endangered by the sudden reduction of their incomes by something like half?
– Militiamen are being asked to do no more training than they would normally do in the annual training periods, namely, sixteen days. Should it be necessary for the periods of training to be increased, consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– With respect to the admission of migrants, is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior in a position to make a statement as to what the Government’s proposals are? Will the war interfere with migration to Australia?
– I have not at hand the full particulars, but the war will certainly interfere with the arrival of migrants. In the first place, there are numbers of Australians overseas who, I understand, will be given preference in passenger accommodation. Moreover, passenger accommodation will be limited by the reduction of shipping.
– In answer to a question earlier this year, the Minister for Social Services indicated to me that he hoped to lay down a programme for home building before leaving his present office. Has the honorable gentleman made any progress in that direction? If not, will he be able to do something in the future?
– I have no recollection of having made any such promise, and therefore there would be no point whatever in answering the question.
– In view of the declaration by Mr. James Ashton that he knows nothing about banking, can the Treasurer inform the House as to the reasons and qualifications that prompted the Government to appoint Mr. Ashton to the Common wealth Bank Board?
– It is very seldom that any man is heard to undervalue his own qualifications, but this is an instance.
– Will the Prime Minister tell me whether or not the policy of the Government in making appointments to public offices and positions is that, with regard to the qualifications of the appointees, the less they know about the job, the better their opportunities of obtaining the position will be?
– The Government will proceed as it has in the past to appoint to any offices that may be vacant such persons as, in the opinion of the Government, are best qualified to fill them.
– A polo player for instance.
– There is nothing wrong with being a polo player any more than with being a cricketer.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform me whether or not the tenders which were urgently called some months ago for the Anglesea Barracks, Hobart, have been cancelled, and if they have, who has been responsible for the cancellation? Was the contract cancelled on the advice of the then Commandant of the Barracks?
– I am not aware that the contract has been cancelled. I shall have the matter investigated and inform the honorable member in due course.
– As the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provided that Australians resident in Britain who enlisted in the British forces during the last war, served during the period of that war, and subsequently returned to Australia were not eligible for repatriation benefit, will the Prime Minister take steps to see that the act is amended in order to eliminate this anomaly and make provision for men who enlist during the present war in British forces and subsequently return to Australia ?
– I shall be glad to look into that matter.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development if it is a fact that overtime is being extensively worked in government munitions factories while many hundreds of men capable of doing the work are at present unemployed ? If that is so, will the Minister take steps to ensure that overtime is eliminated with a view to engaging some of the men who are now out of work?
– The Department of Supply and Development is considering the elimination of overtime by the provision of another shift. I point out, however, that it takes some time to train leading hands to take over supervision of a shift. It is proposed that a third shift will be worked at Lithgow as soon as leading hands can be trained. We are tending towards the same situation in other munitions establishments.
– Is it a fact that during the recess the Prime Minister and five Cabinet Ministers visited the Hunter and Newcastle electorates and there received many deputations requesting a decentralization of many industries for the purpose of absorbing unemployed youths in country areas ? Is it. a fact that with *e exception of the Prime Minister, these Ministers claimed that the responsibility lay with the Minister for Supply and Development, to whom the request should be referred, and that when the Minister for Supply and Development paid his visit, he passed the buck back again, and said that it was a question for the Minister for Trade and Customs ?
– Order !
– -I understand that the Prime Minister said that he would consult Cabinet, and I should like to know whether or not Cabinet has been consulted ? If so, what proposals has Cabinet to make with a view to setting up decentralized industries in order to absorb unemployed youths in devastated areas!
– I assure the honorable member that these matters are all under consideration, but I am not yet able to make a statement in relation to them. I was interested to hear the honorable member’s account of the dexterity of my colleagues, but I assure him that Cabinet, as a whole, will deal with these matters.
– Has the Government come to a decision on the Tariff Board’s recommendation with regard to the future of the cotton industry?
– The Tariff Board’s report is receiving consideration by the Government, and the general question of assistance to the cotton industry is still the subject of communication between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland.
Director or Agriculture
– Is it a fact that the position of Director of Agriculture for the Northern Territory was advertised at the paltry salary of £500 per annum? If that position is not filled, will the Government see that the appointment is made from among officers in our own tropical territories ?
– It is a fact that applications have been called, and I will bring the honorable member’s representations under the notice of the Minister foi’ the Interior.
Reference to Public Works Committee
Mr. (Eden-Monaro- Minister in Charge of External Territories’) [3.31].- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, 1913-1930; the following proposed’ work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Tho erection of a hostel at Forrest. Australian Capital Territory.
It is proposed that a hostel shall be erected on a site bounded by Canberraavenue, Empire-circuit; Dominioncircuit, and Franklin-street, Forrest, Australian Capital Territory.
The hostel is required to meet the need for additional accommodation, which, owing’ to 11ew appointments to the Public Service of typists aird clerks, also teachers from the various States, has become acute. The only boarding establishments Under the control of the Government- Gorman House and Hotel Kurrajong-are fully occupied, and the leased guest houses, which are obliged to give preference to Governmnent employees, are als’O full.
There is urgent need for an establishment to meet the requirements of the lower-paid public servants. The building provided for in the plans submitted will accommodate a total of 130 guests, and it is proposed that the tariff shall not exceed 36s. a week.
The hostel is two-storied, and is designed on a “ W “ plan, with a central lounge, dining, kitchen and staff block, and two wings containing the bedrooms. Construction will be of brick, rendered externally and plastered internally, with roofing of tiles.
Economy has been observed in the design of the structure and furnishings, but at the same time every care has been taken to ensure that the building will be pleasing aesthetically.
The estimated cost of the building, including electric light, power, water and sewerage services, hot water, kitchen refrigeration, and heating equipment, is £4.2,400.
.- I emphasize the need for expedition in regard to this matter. There has been almost no accommodation available for the lowerpaid public servants for quite a long time. That is an intolerable position. I ask the Government to instruct the Public Works Committee to expedite the inquiry, so that tlie work may be proceeded with at the earliest possible moment.
– The time has come when this House should take into consideration the general position in regard to building operations in Canberra. I am not overstating the position when I say that there is always a shortage of accommodation in this city. Tlie real trouble is that nobody is able to obtain a freehold building block, with the result that the development of Canberra is being absolutely retarded. So long as tlie ridiculous position in regard to leasehold tenure is kept in force, there will be no such thing as investment by private enterprise in home building. It would be a very good thing, therefore, if the Government were to instruct the Public Works Committee to inquire as to how the position would be affected if freehold tenure in respect of building sites were granted in the capital city.
– I would again point out that the existing policy is lacking in regard not only to the development of Canberra, but also to the transfer of departments from other cities.. The disability of the position is emphasized iu the present state of unrest caused by the war. Our departments are scattered throughout the Commonwealth, with the result that Ministers spend a great deal of time travelling to and from Canberra by rail and other means of transport. Twelve years ago the nucleus of a. central administration was transferred to Canberra. To-day we have before us a proposal to expend £42,400 on a hostel. What is required is, not only one hostel but also additional office accommodation and houses for the officers who are employed here. Hundreds of people in Canberra, particularly lower paid officers, are waiting for housing accommodation. I believe that the Government should at this stage give further and intensive consideration to the question of not only the development, of the city but also the concentration of departments here, so that the work of the administration might be more efficiently conducted. Within the last two weeks there has been an allocation of £50,000 or £60,000 for additions to the building at Maribyrnong occupied by the Health Department for the production of serums and vaccines. The Commonwealth has an exceptionally efficient staff there, but that activity ought to be established in the National Capital. For too long has this matter been shelved and delayed by various administrations, of some of which I have been a member. This Parliament will have to take a hand in seeing that Canberra is properly developed. Some of our departmental heads will have to be brought to book, and the remaining departments will have to be transferred, so that the administration may be placed on a more efficient basis than that which now exists.
.- Very serious consideration will have to be given by the Parliament as to whether or not further sums of money shall be wasted in Canberra. Only a little while ago, practically every body except members of the staffs who were compelled to remain in Canberra, left it for either Sydney or Melbourne. A similar spectacle is witnessed every week-end. It is almost impossible to make a great city here on account of the wretched water supply that is available. . There is no hope of carrying out the original plan of having beautiful lakes. One wonders when the people will realize how worthless is the expenditure that has so far been incurred.
– I support the remarks of previous speakers, but, not entirely those of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) although, like the honorable member, I believe that it would be a very good idea to have freehold tenure in Canberra. I am rather surprised that the Government should differentiate between Canberra and another territory of which it has control, namely the Northern Territory. In order briefly to explain the position, I may say that in the Northern Territory, where town sites are subdivided, blocks are taken up on the town lease system, under which the person baking up a block is required only to live on it for twelve months to show that he is bona fide, and to erect on it £50 worth of improvements. The observance of these conditions gives him the right to apply for freehold tenure. The case of Canberra is somewhat analogous. The department is doing an injustice to some of my constituents, in charging an enormous amount for conversion to freehold, despite the fact that blocks in the vicinity of those converted are saleable at probably only one-fifth of the price charged by the department. .1 ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) to have an inquiry made into this matter in Darwin. The only test that could be applied would be to have the town zoned for future and present uses, so that valuations might be made of certain localities, as has been done in Brisbane. The valuations could then be charted on a proper zoning plan after first completing a civic survey. Doubtless that has been done thoroughly. in Canberra. There is something wrong when the department can arbitrarily charge an inordinate price when one of my constituents at Darwin or Alice Springs wishes to convert to freehold, and yet, under the Lands Acquisition Act, the department itself can acquire the choicest land in Darwin at a paltry figure. That is not equity.
.- 1 hope that there will not be many who will advocate the destruction of the leasehold system of land tenure on which this capital city has been built. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie. Cameron) speaks about holding up the progress of the city. All that he is concerned about, is handing the Territory over to land jobbers. 1 tell him that if freehold tenure is brought into this city and the residents are left at the mercy of the land jobbers, no man will be able to obtain a home site unless he “ pays through the 110SC “ for it. Whether it be in regard to broad acres or building blocks, the Same argument applies in the consideration of freehold as against leasehold tenure. Under the existing system, any person who wishes to build a house in Canberra has to find only £3, £4, £5 or £6, according to the locality, to enable him to pay the ground rental for a year, having paid which he can proceed to build has home. If land jobbers succeeded in obtaining control of the lands of the Territory- as the result of the tenure being made freehold, before long blocks for the building of homes would cost £100, £150 and £200, and that COSt would have to be met before a person could commence building operations. Thu honorable gentleman knows that to be the case. The argument in support of freehold is not for the development of the Territory, but is speciously in favour of the land jobber. Under freehold tenure, a man has to have sufficient capital to be independent before he can obtain the land that he requires for the building of a home. That is the sorry history of the slums and tenement houses of the cities, in which the population is congested because of the high cost of land. The home conditions of the people of our cities have been destroyed because of the operations of the landlord and the rack renter under the principle of freehold? tenure, because a. man has to have so much money to purchase the land at. a high cost before he can commence to build. I hope that the Minister and the Government will take no notice of the bleatings of these gentlemen on behalf of the land jobber, but will continue the principle that has served so well in the past.
.-I support the motion, and endorse the proposal that the Government should get to work fairly promptly with the building of another hostel for the accommodation primarily of its own public servants. This proposal was originated by me almost twelve months ago while I was administering what was then the Works Department. As one who must bear a part of the responsibility, I have to confess that it seems a striking commentary on the delay which apparently is always associated with government projects, that it is almost twelve months since the principle underlying this project was approved by the Government, and yet even to-day it has only reached the stage of being referred to a parliamentary committee for report upon the appropriateness of the design. There is no doubt that there exists a real shortage of accommodation in Canberra. Many public servants are driven to take board at rates beyond their means; others must accept accommodation in surroundings which, to put it mildly, are not congenial. The Government, when it brings employees to live in Canberra, should ensure that suitable accommodation is available for them. I only hope that it will not be necessary, before this proposed hostel is complete, to begin preparations for still another.
Frequent references are made to the shortage of housing in Canberra. The shortage is real, but my sympathy with those who need houses is not in direct relation to the number of names on the waiting list. It has been said that there are 400 persons at present waiting for houses to be built for them by the Government. Probably there is that number of names on the list, but I have never held the view that the Government should accept the unqualified obligation to lay out £1,000 or £1,500 to build a house for every one who walks into the office of the Department of the Interior and asks for one. To accept that principle would be to establish an entirely new precedent. I know, from my own experience when I was administering the department, that quite a substantial proportion of the names on the waiting list - there were about 300 at that time - were those of persons who were in receipt of unemployment relief. Surely it would not be right for the Government to accept responsibility for providing houses for those who would not be in a position to pay the rent if the houses were built. I am convinced that the citizens of Canberra do not accept the same degree of responsibility for the finding of their own homes as do Australians living in other parts of the country. It seems to mc to be quite wrong that the Government should consider itself obliged, or that it should be directed by Parliament, to build houses costing £2,000 and upwards for well-paid public servants who are in permanent employment, and permanently established in Canberra. Any such public servant may acquire a building block on a 99 years’ lease for a nominal outlay, and there is a scheme of finance by which he can build his house for a deposit of only 10 per cent, of the cost. I do not agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) in their advocacy of a change from the existing leasehold system to a system of freehold. If there is one place in the whole of Australia where the leasehold system should be retained, it is the Australian Capital Territory. Millions of pounds, collected from the taxpayers all over Australia, have been expended in Canberra, and many more millions will be expended in the future, lt is only right, therefore, that the property rights in the land, the value of which is being thus augmented by the expenditure of public money, should remain with the Crown. Moreover, rentals should be periodically reviewed, and made to bear a proper relation to the facilities that have been established here by the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. I am utterly opposed to any proposal that would introduce into the ownership and exchange of land in this Territory, the speculative elements associated with private ownership. I stand firmly for the continuance of the present system of leasehold, with periodic revision of rentals.
I desire to add a word in support of what was said by the honorable member for the Northern Territory regarding housing in that area. I must accept, I suppose, some part of the responsibility for the present situation, but I was unable to alter it. The Northern Territory is the only part of the continent of Australia where there exists no provision by which private citizens may obtain assistance from the Government in order to build their own homes. This is a serious reflection on the Government. There is no reason why the residents of the Northern Territory should not enjoy at feastthe same facilities as those enjoyed by those who live in Canberra, with its more salubrious climate.In fact, the climatic disadvantages with which the citizens of the Northern Territory have to contend should be an added inducement to the Government to make this facility available to them. It is altogether wrong that the only place in Australia where this facility is denied to the people should be the very place for the government of which this Parliament is directly responsible.
– Whatever may be said on the merits of private ownership and leasehold, the fact remains that, over since I have been in this House, the needs of Canberra in regard to housing have always been in excess of what the Government has been able to provide. Notwithstanding this, however, therehas been no disposition on the part of private enterprise to rush in and supply the shortage, though that would certainly have occurred had a similar shortage existed in any place other than Canberra. It is obvious that if we are to develop Canberra, and to provide homes for those who need them, we must so alter our policy as to attract private capital. The sooner that is done, the better it will be for the taxpayers. We have in Canberra a perfect example of a socialistic city. It is not succeeding, and it never will succeed. The housing shortage in Canberra is exactly similar to the shortage which exists in every city in Russia, where the Government must build every home, paint every window-sill, and drive every nail. There is an acute housing shortage in Russia, and conditions there are absolutely deplorable. The general maintenance of the houses in Canberra cannot be compared with that of the suburbs of a city like Melbourne, where the citizens have some personal interest in their own homes. Therefore, the sooner the present policy is revised, the better it will be for Canberra and the taxpayers. The present basis upon which rentals are assessed prevents private enterprise from investing the capital which is so urgently needed for the erection of homes. No one except a fool would invest capital in building in Canberra in an attempt to compete against the Government under present conditions.
– Does the honorable member think that rentals are too low in Canberra ?
– They may not be too low, but the principle upon which they are assessed is wrong. I am convinced that if private enterprise were encouraged to enter the building field here, costs would be so much reduced that rentals would be no higher than they are at the present time. While the present system obtains, Canberra will not be developed as we have a right to expect.
.- I am glad that it is proposed to refer to the Public Works Committee the proposal to erect a hostel in Canberra. Our experience in connexion with the proposal to build a hospital in Darwin shows how essential it is that this Parliament should exercise a close supervision over such undertakings. The original scheme provided for the expenditure of £122,000 on the hospital at Darwin, but when the matter was investigated by the Public Works Committee, the amount was reduced by £67,000. When the report of the committee was before the House, I asked whether the amended proposals would provide the necessary facility, and I was informed by the Minister that departmental officers were convinced that the amended scheme would provide all the accommodation necessary for the next ten years. I point out that one of the objects of this committee is not so much to bring about a reduction of the cost of public buildings, as to see whether the proper facilities are being provided. If the committee is doing its work properly it may be found that in some instance .the committee makes recommendations which, if adopted, result in increasing the cost of the works referred to it.
– The committee has done that.
– I understand that in certain instances it has. It is a matter of great regret that the proposed extensions to the Sydney General Post Office were not referred to the Public Works Committee. I think the House is entitled to some explanation as to why departmental officers recommended an expenditure of £120,000 on the Darwin hospital when £67,000 less was found to be sufficient.
– That question has already been asked but it still remains unanswered.
– I wish now to refer briefly to the architectural design of some of the buildings constructed in Canberra. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the plans for certain flats built here recently were approved by the departmental officers. Some of these flats have a drab appearance and are not worthy of the capita] city of the Commonwealth. Some investigation and review of the present cost of building in Canberra should be undertaken, because that is one of the reasons why so many people are not able to obtain necessary accommodation. Building costs in Canberra are out of all proportion when compared with costs in other cities of the Commonwealth. Even allowing for the circumstances that exist in Canberra, there is room for a considerable reduction of building costs. I simply rose to draw attention to one fact - that the House is fully justified in referring important proposals of this kind to the Public Works Committee, and I trust that it will continue to do so in future.
– I am pleased to know that the Government has decided to construct a hostel to accommodate lower-paid public servants in Canberra. Such a hostel, as we all know, has been sadly needed for a long time. Ever since I came to Canberra I have continually advocated that the whole of the Commonwealth departments should be located here. Although I recognize, of course, that to transfer all of the Government departments to Canberra would entail the expenditure of a considerable amount of money, I, and many other honorable members, shall not. be satisfied until that is done.
I regard it as of little importance whether a house be built on freehold or leasehold land. The leasehold system in operation in Canberra provides for a lease of 99 years duration, which I regard as quite adequate.
– Financial institutions will not lend money for construction on that land.
– Building costs in Canberra are altogether too high. Many employees here are paid very little above the basic wage, and high rents impose great hardships upon them. The Government is at present constructing a number of houses at North Ainslie to meet the needs of low-wage employees. I doubt the wisdom of building bornes for lowwage employees so far out of the city proper because of the high bus fares they have to pay. I understand that it is proposed to build 200 cottages at North Ainslie this year. It was my intention to move the adjournment, of the House to discuss the shortage of housing accommodation in Canberra but several officers interviewed me and asked me to go to North Ainslie and inspect the buildings there. I did so. As honorable members will recall, less than twelve months ago I mentioned in this house the home building scheme which is in operation in South Australia. Under that scheme the cost of constructing a pair of houses is approximately £900. Each house consists of four rooms and conveniences. T waa informed on my visit to North Ainslie that the cost of a pair of semidetached cottages in that area would exceed that price by about £100. I said no more at the time; but I was horrified to find later when the contract was let that these cottages were to cost between £1,600 to £1,700 a pair. That price is far too high. I. fail to see why, if homes can be constructed in Adelaide for £900 a pair, they should cost £1,600 in Canberra. The cost of bricks in Canberra is very little higher than it is in Adelaide. I realize that timber costs more here because of freight charges, but in my opinion the cost of building in Canberra should not be more than 12 or 15 per cent, higher than in the capital cities. I am pleased to know that this proposal is to be submitted to the Public Work? Committee. I trust that the committee will ensure that the building is constructed in a satisfactory manner in all respects and that the cost is not excessive. In my opinion contracts for the erection of 200 houses should also be referred to the Public Works Committee. It is our duty to see that public money is not wasted and that our employees are not charged too high n rental for their homes.
.- The Public Works Committee made a report in connexion with the construction of a hospital for Canberra, and apparently the Government has not taken any action in connexion with it. I should like to know why the Government has not acted. I raise that matter because it excites a certain amount of doubt in my mind as to whether the Government will proceed to give effect to the report of the Works Committee iu connexion with the proposed hostel. It seems to me to be futile for Parliament to be authorising an inquiry and the submission of a report in respect of work unless the Government baa first determined that the work is necessary and that it will be carried on providing the Public Works Committee can satisfy the Parliament that the work is necessary and that provision in respect of the cost has been made.
I feel that some observations are due iu regard to the general conduct of building activities in this territory. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) is quite right when he says that the costs of home building in this city are not only out of all reason but also beggar description when compared with similar costs in other capital cities in Australia. The cost of producing bricks locally appears to be too high.
– The excessive cost of bricks would not make a difference of £30 in the cost of a house.
– All of these essentials in home building in the Australian Capital Territory have the 3ame extra rate put upon them. We know, of course, that materials for building construction in the city of Sydney are more or less subject to monopoly prices. We have evidence of that before us in a variety of ways. I am convinced that first of all the big corporations in Sydney are enabled to exact more than a just price, and superimposed upon their charges comes a variety of additional imposts before the materials are carried to Canberra. I understand that the Commonwealth itself is in a position to make bricks iu Canberra, but even the prices charged for buildings in which these bricks are’ used appear to be unreasonably high. What occurs to me is that the accounting system of the Commonwealth Government must be responsible for loading on to the cost of bricks the greatly excessive capital costs in connexion with the works themselves, with the result that government housing costs far more than would otherwise be the case, because the Government hopes to recover front the subsequent occupiers of the house, some part of the capital which is being wasted in connexion with the instrumentality. I see no reason why the Commonwealth Government should be responsible in any way for providing homes for officers of the Commonwealth Service in receipt of salaries of £700, £800, £1,500 and up to £2,000 a year. The very fact that we -have financed these transactions makes our resources less equal to financing the construction of hostels and boardinghouses for bachelors and spinsters in the Public Service, and for the lowerpaid employees in the Service. I think it is a stupid thing for the Government to have constructed a building for a
Minister in a certain portion of this city where all the services of sewerage, roads and water supply, which had already been provided, had to have additions made to them before this particular dwelling could be serviced. Why the Government did that I do not know. Certainly there has been no recourse open to this Parliament to check government activity of that description. An investi gation into retail prices in this city was made last year by Sir William Clemens. That is not quite relevant to this subject, but there again the fact that prices in Canberra, not only retail, but also wholesale, and particularly building costs, are higher than they ought to be was, I think, conclusively demonstrated. There is something wrong with the manner in which the citizens of this Capital Territory have their essential supplies made available to them. I venture to say that it is the responsibility of the Minister for the Interior to ascertain what is wrong. There seem to be, not only monopoly charges in connexion with raw materials, but also price agreements, and I suppose the shopkeepers would say that the high rentals they have to pay have to be recovered in the goods they sell to individual consumers. It may be that we may only be able to resolve the price problem in this city by a re-assessment of the debts which have been associated with houses and shops already leased. If this is so, it seems to me that we shall ultimately have to investigate the matter. I am glad that it is proposed to construct a hostel. The committee should do its work as quickly as possible. The only question which, it appears to me, it should need to consider is the type of hostel to be provided, and the price that should be paid for it. As to the necessity for the hostel, the committee should be able to make up its mind very quickly.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nairn) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill, which is frankly a war measure, is sufficiently indicated by its short title. In substance it follows closely a similar measure passed in 1914. When I introduced the bill on that occasion, I said that the measure related to trading with the enemy, and that its operations would be confined to the duration of the war. I also said that the main purpose of the measure was to make trading with the enemy a statutory offence. It. is to be observed that it is illegal, under the common law, for a person to trade with the enemy. This measure gives statutory force to the common law and provides penalties for breaches of the law. The bill, while following closely the provisions of the 1914’ act, does not include certain provisions, put into the principal act by an amending measure in 1916, to deal with conditions that did not exist in 1914, and do not exist now. If, unhappily, the war should continue, and similar provisions should become necessary, they will have to be inserted by means of an amending bill.
It may be of interest to honorable members to learn that in the year ended the 30th June last, we imported about £4,500,000 worth of goods from Germany, by far the largest item of which was machinery, and that Germany, in turn, took about £3,000,000 worth of goods from us, about two- thirds being wool.
The offence of trading with the enemy is made punishable summarily or upon indictment. If the proceedings are by indictment, they may be initiated only by the Attorney-General, or by a person authorized by him. It was found by experience in the last war that it was desirable to give the Attorney-General power to delegate his authority, so that offences committed in distant parts of the Commonwealth could be dealt with promptly. An arrest may be made without theauthority of the Attorney-General or the person authorized by him, but proceedings against the person so arrested may be instituted only on the authority of the Attorney-General, or the person authorized by him.
– Who would make the arrest? A member of the police force?
– Yes, probably. The definition of trading with the enemy has been slightly widened compared with that of 1914. Glauses 3 and 5 are the principal clauses of the bill, and set out what, in effect, constitutes trading with the enemy. Sub-clause 2 of clause 3 provides that a person may be deemed to trade with the enemy if he performs or takes part in -
In short, that provision authorizes the publication in the Gazette of a notice of warning. Technically, this notice will not be a proclamation in that it will not have been passed by the Executive. It will provide that certain acts will constitute trading with the enemy. By clause 5 any person who trades with the enemy, or has bo traded since 9.30 p.m. on the 3rd September, is guilty of an offence. I pointed out, when I moved the second reading of the Trading with the Enemy Bill in 1914, that the powers conferred by it were wide, but I added that the circumstances were such as to warrant the exercise of them. A comparison of the provisions of this bill with that of 1914 will show a considerable degree of similarity. Our 1914 measure was, in turn, based very largely upon the Trading with the Enemy Act passed by the British Parliament. Although we have not yet received a copy of the Trading with the Enemy Act passed by the British Parliament this year, we have reason to believe that it follows very closely the British measure of 1914. It may be taken, therefore, that honorable members are being asked to re-enact legislation which experience has shown to be necessary, and which was sufficient to meet the circumstances in which we found ourselves at the beginning of the last war. As the measure is one which may bo more appropriately dealt with at the committee stage, I shall not delay honorable members further at present, hut will ask them to agree to the motion.
– The Opposition, of course, agrees that there should be a statutory prohibition against trading with the enemy. With the main principles of this measure, we are in entire accord. It would be absurd for us, being atwar with Germany, to permit trading to go on with that country. I wish to know, however, why it is provided in clause 15 that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act the Governor-General or a Minister may by licence under his hand exempt any particular transaction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act.
In the absence of any explanation of this clause, I find it difficult to envisage any circumstances which would justify the granting of a licence to corporations or firms to entitle them to continue to trade with the enemy.
– The honorable member would not suggest, I suppose, that armaments might be bought for both sides?
-It is difficult to imagine any circumstances that would justify a permit being granted to any authority or person to trade with the enemy. Extraordinary anomalies may occur if this clause is endorsed. It may be that there will be in Germany a member of a family whose relatives live in Australia. These relatives may learn that their German relative is in dire need, and may wish to despatch some money for his relief. The great probability is that permission would be refused. I feel sure the Government would not permit any such action. Yet, apparently, if a business firm wished to continue to make profits by maintaining trade with Germany, it might be possible for it by some specious argument, according to the irritability or the equanimity of the Minister at the time, to obtain a permit to authorize business operations. That would be an extraordinary situation.
– Trading with the enemy is largely a technical situation. In some circumstances it might be desirable to exempt a trade transaction from the operations of the act, and a person might be permitted to trade with the enemy. We have to bear in mind that the main purpose of the bill is to protect the interests of this country.
– The whole purpose of the bill is to protect the interests of the country, but I cannot see how those interests can be conserved by carrying on normal trading relations with the enemy. It would be ridiculous, for example, for us to continue to sell wool, wheat or scrap iron - to mention a very familiar item - to Germany. Yet what else could we contemplate? The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) should give us some proper explanation of the reason for this extraordinary provision. We know that it is proposed to introduce other emergency measures to take extraordinary powers in relation to the civil and democratic rights of the people of this country; yet under this bill it is proposed to permit a Minister to grant a licence to some corporation, or firm, or person, to trade with the enemy without giving any other person an opportunity to examine the evidence on which it may bc issued. The right honorable gentleman knows that he will bc confronted with many extraordinary situations during this war similar to those with which he was confronted during the last war. It will not be necessary to provide licences for a certain class of trader who wishes to trade with the enemy, for he will during this war, as he did during the last war, simply increase his trade with neutral countries, and those neutral countries will increase their trade with Germany, with the result that this triangular traffic in trade and commerce will be devised and a great quantity of Australian commodities will undoubtedly find final destination with the enemy. That would be bad enough in all conscience, but for the Government to licence certain Australians to trade with the enemy not only cuts across the whole purpose of this measure in principle, but also does worse “than that in that it leaves the Minister himself open to suspicion that he grants a licence to Brown and refuses it to Jones. I should not like to bc in the Minister’s shoes and have that obligation imposed upon me, because the case he would justify would be the case represented to him. It would be impossible for him to verify all facts. He would take into account the repute or otherwise of the person who made the application. If it is unwise to trade with the enemy - and it is unwise - we should not permit anybody to trade with the enemy. For the democratic pursuance of this war as few anomalies as possible should exist and there should be no right for any particular individual which is not the common right of all individuals in the community.
– .The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) would be best explained by the Minister if he could give an actual instance of the class of transaction that would be covered by such licences. If that were done it is possible that we should see clearly to accept or reject the proposed exemption.
Clause 16 of the measure provides -
Thu Governor -General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which by this act aro required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act.
This question of proper machinery for preventing trading with tlie enemy is nothing new - it has been in existence iu previous wars and in many countries - and it should be possible before the House rise3 for the actual regulations to be published so that they may be available for honorable members to see them. During this war it is absolutely certain that there will be a very great deal of administration through executive act and through regulations, but every effort should be made, wherever possible, to ensure that regulations shall be published at the earliest possible moment so that they can be scrutinized by ‘honorable members. I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) that he might be able te tell us exactly within the next two or three weeks what regulations there are to be in connexion with these matters.
– The matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), turning upon clause 15, which contains power to grant licences, on the face of it appears inconsistent with the purpose, of the legislation, but a reason for its inclusion appears in the definition clause, clause 3(1) which reads - “enemy subject “ means -
When dealing with a natural person there is usually no great difficulty in determining that he is an enemy subject, but in dealing with a corporation there may be difficulty. There may be hardship on an Australian firm dealing with a company the actual ownership or influence behind which is not apparent. That was one purpose for which it was originally introduced in the trading with the enemy provision of 1914.
– A thing is either trading with the enemy or is not.
– Quite so. If a company were resident in Germany there would be no doubt that it was an enemy subject, whereas if an enemy subject in the shape of a company were registered in another country - it may be the United States of America ; it may be the Netherlands - there would be great difficulty, in any particular case, in the individual here knowing that he was dealing with the enemy. “Enemy subject” is therefore defined as -
Any corporation, whether incorporated in any enemy country or not. -
– It could be Australia.
– Yes. It proceeds- which the Attorney-General . . . declares to be in his opinion managed or controlled directly or indirectly.– rather wide words - by or under the influenceof, or carried on wholly or mainly for the benefit or on behalf of, persons of enemy nationality, or resident or carrying on business in an enemy country.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) knows that there are many- ways in which the actual influence behind a company can be concealed.
– He is either in or out, but that does not refer to the licences.
– The position in regard to licences is covered in clause 15, which reads - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General or a Minister may, by licence under his hand, exempt any particular transaction or class of transaction from the provisions of this Act . . .
Under that clause there is power to exempt transactions in cases where, for example, prejudice or hardship would result . to the Australian company if such power of exemption did not exist. One substantial purpose of the clause is to enable exemptions in cases where benefit would accrue to the Australian who, through inadvertence or through being without proper knowledge or proper means of knowing, dealt with an enemy company and was then left in a position in which hardship would result unless there were such a provision. The clause, however, is not confined to this class of case.
– Then it is intended to refer to transactions that were contracted before the passing of the act?
– I should say “ No “. It contemplates all transactions. That is the reason for the insertion of this clause.
– I am afraid that the explanation of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has not, helped matters very much. We have to start from this premise: Th at the act of trading consists in the act of buying and selling, exporting and importing. An enemy corporation, enemy subject or enemy activity may be situated outside the actual territorial confines of the enemy state. For instance, the Minister referred to the possibility of an enemy corporation being situated in Holland, but I cannot for the life of me see how it can be argued that in time of war after wo have proclaimed a blockade of the coast of Germany - and the purpose of any blockade is to bring into force the economic weapon - it shall be left to the discretion of a Minister of the Grown to decide which enemy subjects or which enemy corporations shall be entitled to receive, the goods from this country to assist them to carry on the work of that enemy. If the blockade means anything, if the cessation of trade with the enemy means anything, it means that you have to put the shutter right down. Any one familiar with the ruses and subterfuges during the last war to beat the naval blockade on the part of firms in the United States of America, particularly before the United States of America had entered the war, must look askance at a clause of this description, .and must view with the gravest suspicion and apprehension a power of this, description. It is no satisfaction to me to he told that the clause was contained in the act of 1914. Judging by a lot of experience that we gained out of the contest from 1914 to 1918, there are many reasons why we should look with circumspection on the measures put into force on that occasion. That was, the first occasion on which this country was engaged, in the prosecution of war overseas. Merely to say that we are acting on precedent means nothing to me unless it can be justified by the actual circumstances of the situation with which we are, faced to-day. Without going into the military aspect, it is apparent that the chief weapon wielded by the British power in the North Sea will be the blockade, and it is the duty of this Parliament and this Government to. see that every measure is elective which will assist the Imperial Navy ‘in carrying out that blockade. The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) must know from has. experience of the years from 19.14: to 19.18 that insidious organizations will be set up in all States - Holland, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland,, for example– <in order to get into: Germany the- things that Germany will need during- the conflict. In view of experience, to say that a Minister of State kas. the right to prescribe that everything laid down., in this statute shall on. his. own say-so be set aside in- order to allow in special circumstances. trading with the enemy is to put into his hands - into the hands of one- man~-th;at. which I am; not prepared, to grant. I shall not vote for it. Ti he mom.ent that you go to war that wa-r mus.fr bo prosecuted with the most ruthless determination. There must be no softness, no sentiment. If the cessation of trade with the enemy imposes hardship upon ourselves, we. have to take it. Unless we are prepared to impose those hardships on the other side, w*i should not enter this contest at all. I am f or imposing those hardships. It is no satisfaction to me to say that there may be companies of enemy origin so well disguised as to escape detection by ah Australian trader, but those interests within Australia are within our control, whereas tie interests in neutral countries will not be within our control. Therefore, we must take the strongest possible measures and I am not prepared to grant any Minister the right under this clause to say that anything in the purport of this legislation shall be varied on his say-so for the benefit of certain enemy interests.
.- This, bill should be watertight; and as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said, we. must not permit a repetition of the circumstances which occurred in 1914. In my opinion, this clause is a let-out for the company which is engaged in the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia.. I understand that an agreement has. been signed involving the importation of magnesium from an Anglo.-German firm for use in the manufacture of aeroplanes. It, is imported from England,, but. nevertheless it probably comes, from Germany. Magnesium can be produced in- Australia. I will, not support a provision which would permit enemy trading such as that during the last war-when Germany purchased certain supplies through Holland. Munitions so purchased were fired back at Australian soldiers who were fighting in- defence of the Empire. We must, be practical. I do- not intend to permit gaps of this character in vital legislation. There should- be- no trade relations whatsoever with the people who to-day claim that they are going to crush the British Empire, and) in so doing are shooting at our brothers- and sons. Honorable members should not- cast their votes in- favour of legislation which would permit profits to be made out of the blood and. suffering’ of- the- Australian people. It would- be scandalous hypocrisy if the
Government were to permit a gap such as this, while at the samo time claiming that Australia was going to fight for the existence of the British Empire and of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I know that a contract has been signed for the importation of the magnesium from an. agency in. Britain, but there is little doubt that the firm derives its supplies from Germany. The right honorable gentleman in charge of this bill must know that this is the case, and I submit that he should take steps to see that there is no repetition of what occurred in 1914. The Government muSt face up to the facte and face up to them squarely. I am in favour of full co-operation with the British Empire, but I will not support measures’ such as this, which, will result in the exploitation of the people of Australia. This Afternoon, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) invited mc to give some 3ubstanti.at.i0n of statements I have made previously in this connexion. I challenge him- now to prove that my statement that the company which is engaged in the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia hae signed a contract for the purchase of magnesium is incorrect. If that importation is not stopped, I shall tell the people of Australia, about the hypocrisy of those who seek to trade with Germany in a crisis such as this. The Government has no hesitation in providing that there must be no assembly of workers to criticize any law introduced in the defence of this country, but apparently profiteering is to be permitted. I challenge the Government to stand up to the great ideals of Empire defence about which it so frequently boasts. Special licences of this character should not be permitted at a time when we are fighting for the very existence of the Empire. I wall not vote for this clause. We can easily do without purchasing any materials from an enemy country. We have ample supplies of our own and steps should be taken to rid ourselves of those inhuman monsters who are endeavouring to exploit every avenue of profit. Any materials which we cannot produce in this country can be purchased from other countries in the British Commonweatlh of Nations or from some friendly country. If trading with the enemy is permitted, goods will come here stained with the blood of Australian soldiers who are fighting in the trenches.
Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) >.50J.- This bill is not exactly a” copy Of the 1914 measure, and I think that the right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) is incorrect in saying that it is.
– 1 said, “ substantially
– The clause with which we are dealing now is not in the 1914 measure. It was introduced for the first time in 1916, and was a copy of h provision in the English act passed in the same year. It first appeared as a now section, 9b, inserted in the Trading with the Enemy Act 1916, which was enacted on the 30th May, 1916, and was copied from the original act 15 and 16 George V., passed in Great Britain in 1910. Apparently it was thought desirable in Great Britain to reconsider the earlier restrictions on trading with the enemy. 1 agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and other honorable members, that it should not bo within the power of the Government or of any Minister to make fish of one and flesh of another. If trading with the enemy is to be forbidden by proclamation, then it should be forbidden to everybody. 1 am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that this section was introduced to cover transactions between a British subject and a corporation the composition of which was in doubt, although it is possible that the clause lias something to do with that. In the Continental Company case it was held that, although a company was incorporated iri Britain, it might be substantially an enemy company. Nevertheless, I cannot see that the clause is limited to that. If the explanation tendered by the Assistant Treasurer is correct, then it should be limited so as to cover contracts only with corporations registered in Britain or Australia but of doubtful nationality. The Minister should not be given power to make one law for one man and another law for another man, or to say that what is guilt in the case of Brown shall not be guilt in the case of Jones. It is desirable that we should start on the same basis as that on which we started in 1914. Tt was not then thought necessary to have a provision like this. It would save serious trouble if that course were followed. There is a number of people who believe that during the last war transactions were carried on by Australian and British subjects, with enemy nations, and that these transactions should have been prevented. It is alleged that neutral countries were receiving goods from Australia and other British countries, and then passing them on to enemy nations. The AttorneyGeneral will remember the proceedings which he took in 1917 to have the Waterside Workers Federation de-regis tered as a union under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. because members of that union had refused to load cargoes of wheat for Java. The waterside workers believed, as many others believed, that those cargoes were intended, ultimately, to reach enemy countries, and to feed people engaged in hostilities with Australia.
It is very dangerous at the outset of this war to create any doubt in the minds of the people of Australia. This clause should be expunged from the bill unless some better reason than that already put forward can be shown for it. In reality no valid reason has been advanced. Inthis connexion we should note the fact that the statutory definition of “ trading with the enemy “ is wider than it is under common law. Under this bill, “ trading with the enemy “ includes, not only things specified by statute and under common law, but also certain other things which the Minister may, in the future, declare to be “ trading with the enemy” The Minister should not have the power to say that a certain thing is an offence only if it is done by Jones and not when it is done by Brown, and I urge the necessity for abandoning this clause at the present time. If later the Government can give better reasons for its inclusion, then no doubt the House will be prepared to listen to them, but, in my opinion, no valid reason has yet been advanced.
.- Although Parliament endorses the principle of this bill, it seems to me that one contentious clause is that to which other honorable members have referred
I agree with them. When economic sanctions were imposed on Italy some years ago, pressure was applied by various traders to allow discrimination in favour of their goods. Great subtlety was used in some of those cases. There should be no discrimination whatever and the provisions of this bill should be made absolute. If this clause is contingent upon the definition of “ enemy subject “, about which the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) spoke, that definition should be redrafted and the clause withdrawn. The weakness in the clause, as I see it, is its comprehensive character. It states that a Minister “may, by licence under his hand, exempt any particular transaction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act”. Honorable members know that very often a junior Minister has to act for a number of Ministers when parliament is not sitting, and this might mean that a Minister not having full cognizance of all circumstances might make a hasty decision in a matter requiring a great deal of research. Many firms trading in Australia are registered under British names which have merely been adopted by persons who are now enemy subjects. As there are so many dangers in the clause the Government would be very wise to make the bill absolute in order to prevent any discrimination whatever. I urge it to withdraw the clause when the bill goes into the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
.- Clause 15 is linked up with the definition of “ enemy subject “. I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) whether he intends to rewrite that definition, or is he satisfied to allow it to remain in its present form?
– The paragraph which the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) quoted some little time ago relates to a corporation. The honorable gentleman said that it was because of the difficulty of dealing justly with the members constituting a corporation that this reserved right must be given to the Minister to exempt certain transactions from the prohibition against trading with the enemy. In principle, I cannot see that a corporation should have any greater facilities than a proprietary for trading with the enemy. After all is said ana done, the distinction between a corporation and a proprietary is that a proprietary involves the whole of the resources of the person conducting the enterprise, whereas a corporation repre> gents a limited liability on the part of the individual shareholders. Therefore, it cannot be said that there is a case for the carrying on of trade in order to maintain the interests of shareholders whose liability is limited, but that there is no case at all to permit trade being carried on by persons whose liability is unlimited. There are hundreds of citizens in Australia who have formed agency enterprises in which they have put the whole of their capital. There are some, I have no doubt, whose business consists exclusively of trading in German goods. Those persons will not be permitted to continue to trade, and their businesses will have to go into liquidation.
– Nor will anybody else be permitted to trade.
– The Assistant Treasurer has said that there are reasons why the Government should have a reserve power to exempt a corporation from the provisions of the statute; but he did not say that it was intended to exempt individuals.
– He did not, but I will.
– The right honorable gentleman now proposes to treat corporations and individuals in like manner?
– Exactly the same.
– That is much fairer; but it was not the explanation given by the Assistant Treasurer.
– He was dealing with a different point.
– Hia explanation led me to endeavour to ascertain what reason there could be for a corporation having the right - as he put it - to apply for a licence to continue trading with Germany, when an individual did not have such a right. The Attorney-General now says that he will be entitled to grant an exemption to individuals.
– All persons, whether they be individuals or corporate bodies, will be treated exactly alike; there is to be no trading with the enemy, either directly or indirectly.
– Very good, then, all that remains is the principle of the thing; - as to whether any trading at all is to be permitted. If we agree with the principle, I should say that that is a matter which ought to be dealt with by some body other than the Minister; it is a matter for a court; there ought to be some appeal. I do not doubt the right honorable gentleman’s fairness; but I argue, and I shall argue, that in relation to the civic rights of the people of this country there must be some right of approach to other than a Minister. Under Executive control, the evidence would not be available for the public and they could not even have any knowledge of it. If the applicant for a licence had to go to a court for a certificate granting him exemption, he would have to make a submission in the light of day, whereas the Minister would deal with the application arbitrarily, and on the recommendation of his officers. In this connexion, he will doubtless recruit his staff from persons who have had some experience in business and who more or less have interests as well as experience - as everybody in that category must be said to have. That is the dangerous point. The right honorable gentleman knows that the investigations conducted after the last war revealed transactions which necessitated the Government instituting proceedings. Prosecutions were lodged in Australia against persons for offences against the Trading with the Enemy Act. The right honorable gentleman himself instigated some of those prosecutions.
– All of the indictable ones.
– As the right honorable gentleman discovered so many instances of this law having been broken, is it unreasonable to suggest that there were probably other instances which escaped the oversight of the department and of the various governmental authorities? It is notorious that the enemy obtained from neutral countries supplies which, in fact, they could not have obtained had they not had some machinery in the allied nations’ organizations. This thing must be done thoroughly, or not at all. Unless a much better case than I have so far heard can be made out, I shall certainly vote against the retention of clause 15. If the right honorable gentleman cares to anticipate by varying the definition of “enemy subject”, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), now is the time to do it. If not. I shall vote against clause 15.
– We are probably anticipating a debate that ought to take place on clause 15; but I take no exception to that. I should like, first, to remind my honorable friend that this is taken bodily from the 1.914 act; that that 1914 act was introduced and passed into law by a Labour government; that it was singularly successful; that it completely prevented trading with the enemy in the sense suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) - that the enemy received comfort and aid as the result of the products of Australia - that it was effective in preventing German goods from coming into this country - I do not- think that any one has denied that - that it. was administered fairly - I think that the records will prove that - and that it was certainly most stringently applied without f ear or favour to any person, whether companies or private individuals-that has not been denied. . I remind honorable members that this country led the way in cutting off the supply of products vital to the conduct of the war. We cut off from Germany all metal supplies long before Great Britain or any other country did so. It is easy to get up and ask how this or that section can be abused. I do not deny that abuse is possible, provided1 you postulate that theMinister has a desire to serve, nothis country, but himself.
– Oh, no!
– I know that the honorable gentleman doesnot make that postulation. But I say that, unless we assume that the Minister will be,, in all thathe does, animated solely by a desire to serve his country, and his country alone, the gateway to the citadel is wide open. No matter what statutory prohibitions are imposed, unless the Minister is a. man above suspicion, the enemy within and without our gates will work his will. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has directed attention to the fact that we are able, as it were, to extend the power into a sphere not invaded under the 1914 act. Therefore, on the one hand we are accused of leaving the door open, and on the other hand we are accused of barring and bolting it.
– The light honorable gentleman is accused of having made a larger padlock and of still having left the gate open.
– That, of course, is the very point at issue. I deny that. I say that, if you have a door, no matter what it is, there must be a doorkeeper. I said at the outset that this act is intended to deal with circumstances that arise in a state of war. War cannot be made with kid gloves. You cannot say to a man, “ This thing requires to be done”, and then leave him without the power to do it. Not in one case, but in 100, it, happens that discretionary power must be vested in somebody. The honorable gentleman has suggested that it be vested in a judicial tribunal.
– The light honorable gentleman has not explained to me - I take it that he will do so on clause 15 - why he wants this provision.
– Iam dealing with the point that the honorable gentleman has raised. I do notthink that hehas suggested any amendment of this clause.
– Very well; all that I have to. say is that, when we come to clause 15, we will deal with that point. But I remind him that this is taken bodily from the. old act, and that it worked. I invite the honorable member to point to any abuse of the relevant section of the old act; there is no suggestion of it. I was Attorney-General at the time, and I cannot remember a licence being issued; there may have been one, but I know of none. It is very difficult to. conceive of a case; but supposing that from country X there is a consignment of goods for Sydney and Melbourne), and while those goods, are in transit war breaks out. Are we to say that those goods, which are very desirable, shall not, be allowed to enter the country? I admit that it is difficult to find a case that will fit the circumstances, and I cannot remember one having arisen during the last war; but if honorable members ask me to cut the clause out, I will not do so. A situation might arise in which a provision of this kind would be, necessary.
– I should like to know whether the. definition of “ Australia “ includes the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
– I think it is also desirable that the act should provide for those. British territories such as the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides, which are adjacent to Australian territory, provided the British Government is agreeable. I feel sure that we need have no fears regarding the. efficient administration of this measure, seeing that it is being introduced by the person who introduced the original measure in 1914. Everybody knows the part he played during the last war, and I can think of no one who could be relied upon to enforce the provisions of this measure more rigidly, or who would be more scrupulous in carrying outthe intentions of Parliament. Those honorable members who have themselves been ministers know that sometimes approval is given to certain matters by the Executive Council, and the minute is signed by a junior Minister.
In that way things might be done without the knowledge of the senior Minister, but I am convinced that if the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) himself administers the act, we need have no fear that goods will be imported from an enemy country, or exported from Australia to an enemycountry. The intention of the Parliament is clear that no trading with the enemy shall take place during the period of the war.
.- A red herring was drawn across the trail by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender), and we have been led off on a false scent. In my opinion, this definition is satisfactory. It has been tested, both here and in Great Britain, and I can see no way of improving it. We have to face the position that we are dealing, not only with human beings, or natural persons, but also with companies, which are artificial persons. A company registered in Great Britain or Australia, though constituted of aliens and directed by aliens, would not, apart from a specific provision, be regarded in law as an alien. In law, it would be something distinct from the human beings who composed it. That was the position at the beginning of the last war, and it was necessary to make provision to meet it. That was why this definition was inserted in the first amendment in 1914, and extended in 1916, copying, I think, the. English provision. This matter is not connected with clause 15, and we should not be considering it in relation to clause 15 had the Assistant Treasurer not made his suggestion.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 - (1.). Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General or a Minister may, by licence under his hand, exempt any particular transaction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act. (2.) Any person who, for the purpose of obtaining a licence under this section -
is false in any material particular ;
Penalty: Five hundred pounds, or three times the value of any goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed, whichever is the greater, or imprisonment for six months, or both.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) says that he is committed to this clause, and that he will not abandon it. If that is the position taken by the Minister, he ought to be able to tell us what good purpose this provision served during the last war, and what transactions were permitted under it.
– I have said that I cannot recall offhand any cases that were dealt with under this provision.
– Before this extraordinary clause is agreed to by the Committee, the Attorney-General ought to be able to say that it served a necessary purpose during the last war, and that it is necessary now for the proper administration of the act. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) made one suggestion which I think had not much substance in it. The Attorney-General has since made another suggestion, but I think that is covered by the provision which deals with persons who have transactions partially completed. If goods are actually on the way to Australia at the outbreak of hostilities, it seems to me that the transaction is covered by clause 14, which provides that an Australian debtor of a German creditor may tender the money to the Comptroller-General and get a discharge.
– Will the honorable member say that, in no conceivable circumstances, can there be a case in which the Minister ought not to exercise his discretion?
– No, I will not say that, but I do say that it is very dangerous to lay down a general rule against trading with the enemy, and then give power to the Minister or any one else to dispense with that provision. We ought to be satisfied that this provision is absolutely necessary, and even then the discretion of the Minister ought to be limited more than it is. It may be argued in justification of this clause that a man may have entered quite innocently into a transaction with an enemy subject, and that he ought not to be punished for that. The answer is that the Government, in those circumstances, should not prosecute him. Only the Government can prosecute; no common informer can do so. I do not believe that power should be given in this way to dispense in individual cases with a provision laid down as the policy of Parliament unless it is shown to be absolutely necessary to the fair and proper working of the act.
– I said previously that I found it very difficult offhand to find a case to illustrate the need for this provision. But many such cases were dealt with during the war, and the records will make these available to honorable members. I have already quoted two; I will cite another. We all admit that somebody should have this power - by “ we “, I mean “ me “ - and a t the same time everybody admits - and in that I include honorable members opposite - the danger that such power may be wrongly used. I gave one illustration, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) was good enough to point out that the case I cited was covered by clause 14. I do not know whether it is or not, though I do not think so. However, here is an example which, it is suggested, illustrates the need for this provision : A German ship which was in a neutral port at the outbreak of war, had on board goods belonging to Australians. The ship would not deliver the goods unless the freight was paid, but the freight could not be paid unless a licence was given to enable that to be done. What have honorable members to pay to that? However, I make this concession. Strike out the word “ Minister “, and put in the word “ GovernorGeneral “. That will broaden the matter by making it a corporate action.
– The explanation of the AttorneyGenera! (Mr. Hughes) does not meet the criticism that has been offered. Tie has taken up an attitude entirely different front that of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) who, by. the way, has something to explain to this committee in view of his second-reading speech. The reason now advanced by the Attorney-General for the inclusion of this clause does not make the position much better. We were told originally that it had something to do with the definition. .lust how clause 15 can be tied up with the definition the Assistant Treasurer can explain at his leisure, lini; now the AttorneyGeneral says that the real purpo.se of this clause is to allow certain Australian traders who may have contracted to buy goods from Germany to introduce them into Australia after certain German, ships may have taken refuge in neutral ports. If that is the position obviously this clause is not needed for the duration of the war.
– The flight honorable gentleman -did not say that. He merely cited that as an instance.
– We are craving to get other instances of how this power can he used. There was evidently very little preparation on the part of the Government which would enable Ministers to answer propositions that may be put up against it. Incidentally I say that it is not wise to provide by ways of legislation a power that will not be required. If I understand the AttorneyGeneral correctly, he said at an earlier stage in the debate that he could noi recall instances during the war in 1914- 1918 in which this power had to be invoked. Consequently we may argue that if we could go through that war without having to exorcise the power which is granted under this clause it is extremely doubtful whether we should have it in the bill as it stands to-day. The purposes of the bill are to prevent the import and export of goods to an enemy country. T referred previously to certain difficulties that arose during the last war as the result of trading with corporations and persons carrying on business with enemy countries. Those difficulties are 8tl before the Government - they have not been dissipated, and the greater the need for certain commodities in Germany on
Ihi3 occasion, the greater the need will be for the exercise of mental alertness, and the greater the resort to subterfuge to get around the law of this country. Many commodities produced in this country are of the highest value in the manufacture of first-class munitions of war. Of some of them Australia has practically a, monopoly. They are very valuable; they are small in bulk; and, consequently, they will have to be very carefully supervised. We have only to mention tantalite, osmiridium or zirconium, of which A.ustralia is practically the world’s sole producer. To give any Minister the right to vary a statute by his mere say-so, is to grant him a power which wo should not tolerate. It was said by the Attorney-General not long ago that during the last war the Government of Australia was contained in his fountain pen. As I understand it, power to vary the provisions of this bill will be contained in the fountain pen of some member of the Government, no matter what changes may take place during the duration of the present conflict. During the troubles that we experienced in regard to sanctions imposed on Italy in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute we learned certain lessons which should not be lost sight of to-day. I shall not go into them now ; there is no need to do so; but I say thai there is incumbent upon the Minister today an obligation to give a reasonably acceptable explanation of the purpose and intention of this clause.
Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition) ‘5.36]. - I point out to the House that during the last war. instead of it being easy to prevent trading with the enemy, the official historian of that section of our war history which deals with the home front points out the great difficulty that confronted the Government in this connexion. He fays that there were known to be 500 persons in neutral countries who were associated with 1,500 known persons in Australia who had been concerned in this illegal trade, that prosecutions continued to be launched down to the last weeks of the war. Very heavy fines were, in some instances, imposed. And then he rnakes this pregnant comment - .
Indeed the punishments upon conviction were so exemplary that the risks would have been too great to bc undertaken had it not been that the profits from tho illegal business were large enough, in many instances, to enable tho fines to bc paid and still leave a margin of financial advantage. The largest fine, £10,000 was paid by an individual at tlie termination of litigation which extended over more than a year, involved several trials and appeals on points of Jaw, and engaged the services of some of the most richly fed counsel in the Commonwealth.
So it will be seen that this business was so highly profitable that those engaged in it could not only hazard the law, but even fight it. Here is an anomaly which is implicit in this clause. The Minister says that a man may wish to trade with the enemy and we may refuse him the requisite permission, but he goes on because he sees in this business opportunity for great profit ; he is discovered and pays a fine of £10,000 ; but another man may get a licence to carry on tlie same business though his operations may not be of the same magnitude. “Will not the Government see in this the strongest reasons advanced why this power should not be reserved to the Minister? The very anomaly of exercising this power on behalf of Jones while refusing to exercise it on behalf of Brown, sets up a state in the community in which all those engaged in business who would like to trade with Germany are not treated on the same basis. One of the fundamental principles of good conduct while this war is being fought is that we shall treat every citizen of this country on the same basis so far as we possibly can. I would agree to the passage of this clause if the Minister would give us some reason why it is necessary; but despite all of the debate that has taken place, no reason has been advanced. Until that is done we should, pass the bill without this provision, and then, should the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) find himself in possession of suf- ficient facts to enable him to ask the House to amend the legislation by the inclusion of this clause, the House might be willing to agree to the amendment. The right honorable gentleman has cited an instance which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) says is covered by a clause which the committee has already passed. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) quite misled me, inadvertently I agree, when he said that clause 15 was tied up with the Definition clause. It is not tied up with that clause in any way.
– I said that it was where exemptions were to be granted.
– “Whatever the Minister intended to say, I gathered that it was because of the distinction between corporations and individuals that this clause was inserted in the bill. The clause does two things, both of which are wrong; it enables discrimination to be made between the citizens of this country with respect to trading with the enemy, and it enables that discrimination to be exercised upon tlie ipse dixit of the Minister. I have the greatest confidence in the Minister, but the Government has an immense task in front of it, and discretion of this sort should not be at the will of the Minister; it should be exercised in some judicial way.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by that?
– So long as Parliament was sitting, if the Minister found instances of that sort he could bring down a regulation provided sufficient power were reserved in the statute. Ministerial discretion as to whether Jones should be permitted to trade with Germany, and as to whether Brown should not be permitted to trade with Germany would bean anomalous authority to vest in theMinister, , .’
– Is the honorable gentleman not assuming that trading with Germany means’ selling something to Germany or buying something from Germany? There are many transactions, not a bit, like that.
-TIN. - I was assuming that. We asked for an explanation quite early in the discussion and have been hying to get it for an hour.
Mr. HUGHES (North Sydney AttorneyGeneral) 1.5.42], - lt is very difficult to meet the honorable gentleman’s wishes in regard to this matter though one has every desire so to do. The honorable gentleman is a seeker after the truth, and we are anxious that he should find it. By his reply to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) he showed that he has hh? mind fixed on a transaction involving a sale with Mr. So-and-so of Essen to Mr. Soandso of Sydney, a sale of 30 many machines for example, an actual transaction.
– Hut the right honorable gentleman knows that earlier in the discussion I instanced the case of a man in Australia with relatives in Germany, who were discovered to be impoverished, and he wished to send money to them. The Minister did not assure me that the man could do so.
– He could not do so without a licence. The honorable member Will appreciate that the definition covers a number of transactions which normally would not fall within the range of trade. .Cases have been cited to illustrate this point. Others may be given. For example, a German insurance company was represented in Australia by a local firm. The company could not pay claims on insurances effected in Australia unless they were licensed, otherwise the recipient would have been trading with the enemy. The transactions were licensed and the claims were made. What does the honorable gentleman say to that? Here is another case: An Australian patented his invention in foreign countries, including Germany. Certain renewal fees are payable in respect of patents. If the Australian did not pay his renewal fees in -.Germany he would lose his rights in the invention in that country. He is unable to pay his renewal fees in Germany unless be is granted a licence.
– .Did he pay them to Germany?
– Yes. If an invention is patented renewal fees have to be paid in every country in which the patent is registered. I am sure that the honorable member has in his .mind actual transactions falling within the scope of trade ordinarily so called. I feel sure that he does not wish to block the passage of thi? clause.
– The Minister excluded the case that I cited.
– Surely we must postulate that the Minister, whether he be the Attorney-General or some other Minister, in exercising his powers under thi.* act will be actuated entirely by an intelligent desire to promote the interests of bis country ! That being so, and it being shown that, in certain circumstance?, injustice will be inflicted upon fellow citizens unless this power is exercised, I say that the authority to exercise it should be granted.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has instanced the case of a firm using German patents in Australia and being required to pay fees.
– 1 was referring to an Australian with a patent registered in Germany. If he paid the renewal fees he would be liable to a charge of having traded with the enemy.
– The point we must remember is that during the Great War both enemy and allied countries violated the patent law hundreds of times. Britain violated certain German patents by manufacturing 120,000,000 fuses, the world patent rights of which were held by Germany. After the war, the British Government was faced with the claim for 120,000,000 shillings, in respect of that’ violation; but the claim was not allowed. The cases that have been mentioned are too thin. I cannot accept the views expressed by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender). Is it to be left to the Attorney - General or some other Minister to determine whether a company is American, British, or German? Is a Minister to determine whether the capital of a certain company is Belgian, Danish, American or Dutch? I entirely disagree with the view that it should he left to the discretion of the Minister to determine whether a licence may be issued. The arguments that have, been used in support of this clause have been particularly weak. We all know of the treachery that was practised during the last war. Numerous instances are on record of commercial organizations in one country selling not only foodstuffs, but also munitions, well knowing that they would be used to advantage by the enemies of their country. It is on record that. Italy lent its mechanics to manufacturers of poison gas for delivery in Denmark knowing very well that they would ultimately reach Germany and be used against their own allies if not their own countrymen. In these circumstances, we should do our best to make trading with the peoples of enemy countries impossible. A person who would sell munitions of war knowing very well that they might be used against his own countrymen, is an arch traitor. If it is inhuman for one man to fight another and kill him, it is far more inhuman for a person to sell munitions of war to the enemy. I am not prepared to leave the door open for anything of that kind to be done and I shall vote against this clause. Even if a few people in this country suffer financial loss because it is omitted from the bill, they will not be nearly so hardly done by as other people who will be fighting in the ranks and making infinitely greater sacrifices. We know that no exceptions will be made under the provisions of the bill dealing with the liberties and freedom of the people that we are to consider presently. I can see no reason, therefore, why we should make exceptions under this bill.
– If an Australian citizen had entered into a contract with a German citizen or firm prior to the declaration of war and under that contract was obliged to remit money to Germany, I do not believe that the Government would permit him to adhere to his contract. I should be interested to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) assure the committee that in such circumstances he would, permit money to be transmitted to Germany. Reference has been made to patents. I do not profess to be an authority on that subject, but I am aware that patents are subject to international conventions. A considerable amount of trouble occurred after the last war in consequence of the alleged infringements of certain German patents by Great Britain and Australia. I have in mind the aniline dye case, and other cases involving certain chemicals. Some awkward breaches of the international convention on patents occurred during the last war. Another type of transaction covered by international conventions relates to the sustenance of prisoners of war, but I do not imagine that there would be any grievous trouble over that on this occasion. The fact is that we are very much in the fog, if not in the dark, as to the how, why, and wherefore of this clause. In view of the general feeling in the community, that wealth should not be granted any privileges over men, I plead with the Government to agree to the omission of this clause. If circumstances subsequently arise which indicate the necessity for its enactment, appropriate action can be taken. Until then, it should be held in abeyance. If the Government will not agree to omit the clause it would be wise., for the protection of the good name of !his Parliament, and for the re-assurance of the community at large, to provide that full details of any permits granted under this provision shall be published in the Gazette next issued after the signing of the order, and, further, that a periodic statement shall be published giving the names, circumstances, and duration of all such certificates granted. A return should be laid upon the table of Parliament immediately it meets after any recess, showing full details of all transactions under this provision.
.- I do not feel satisfied with the illustrations given by the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) . I have a suspicion that they are purely conjectural, and are not based on experience. If they are so based, and if we had experience of the working of this provision in England and Australia during the last war, it should be possible for the Government to enumerate classes of transactions in respect of which exemptions could be granted.
– About 200 exemptions were granted during the last war, included among which were the two classes mentioned by the AttorneyGeneral. Does the honorable member suggest that we should enumerate 200 classes in the bill?
– The AttorneyGeneral said he could not remember any particular cases in Australia.
– We had similar cases in Australia.
– From our experience in the past, it should be possible for Parliament to include effective exemption provisions in the bill, but the Government is inviting us to give a Minister full power to grant exemptions. I can understand that there might be a case for the granting of an exemption in respect of a transaction begun before the introduction of the bill, and partly coneluded by now, and merely involving the payment of money. Such money could be paid to the Comptroller-General. J. cannot understand the rationale of the suggestion of the Attorney-General in view of the monetary regulations that are now in force. I cannot see that persons who pay insurance premiums to agents of German companies in Australia can expect adequate cover. Lf it is necessary and practicable to cover such cases, provision for it should be made in the bill. As it is, a Minister might grant any number of permits.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should provide for specific exemptions?
– If any exemptions are to be provided, they should be specific. The Minister’s intention might be the most honorable in the world, and I have no doubt it is, but it would be very dangerous to give a. Minister power to grant exemptions during the long periods during which we are told Parliament will not be sitting. We have been warned that Parliament will not be sitting continuously. In such periods, if the clause were passed in its present form, a Minister would be able to do as he liked. As a matter of fact, we have been given only the flimsiest of reasons for accepting this clause. If it is necessary to ensure the continuity of insurance premiums or of patent rights, a specific provision should be drafted for the purpose.
– There would be too many specific cases.
– I find it difficult to believe that that would be so. It is perfectly clear that international financial operations will be maintained in spite of the war, and meetings will be held by the financiers and capitalists of different countries during the war to consider financial arrangements. It is said that during the last war meetings of the representatives of armament firms of the nations at war were held. In fact, that has been well established. We should, therefore, be careful to do nothing that, is likely to create suspicion in the minds of our people. This whole proposal, to my mind, is entirely unsatisfactory. No matter how good and earnest the intentions of a Minister may be, we know that, in time of war, when strong feelings are aroused, pressure will be exerted upon him to do certain things. I therefore hope that the committee will not accept this clause, unless it. is definitely limited. We got on from the beginning of the last war until May, 1916, without a. provision of this kind.
– That is not correct. A British proclamation was issued on this subject in 1914.
– On that point, I remind the committee that it is within the power of the Government to issue a proclamation to grant exemptions in certain cases. I should not object to exemptions in particular instances so long as Parliament is kept informed of what is being done, and has the responsibility for any such actions; but I do not wish a Minister to be subjected to pressure to grant licences of this kind. I should not object to the issue of a proclamation covering payments for the renewal of premiums on life assurance policies. I should not regard that as trading with the enemy. Nor should I object to a proclamation saying that the payment pf renewal fees on patents should not be prohibited.
– We could not have an exhaustive list.
– There were apparently no cases in Australia and about only 200 in England, probably mostly of the same class. It should be possible to make an exhaustive list of cases in which we should say that a proclamation shall authorize licences to be granted. If we cannot do that we should try to do without this power until it is necessary to introduce it.
– I am reluctant to intervene in “this discussion, but I think that there aro one or two things which should be made clear. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has suggested, as I understand him, that there should be some complete list of possible circumstances.
– Which Parliament could enlarge from time to _ time as occasion arose.
– Any experience of the thousand and one possibilities which arise in relation to commercial relationship between countries “would make it quite impossible and quite wrong to endeavour to frame an exhaustive list in advance. The whole purpose of clause 15 is to enable some relaxation to be permitted of what would otherwise be tlie complete rigour of this law in the interests of Australians or in the interests of fair play in some circumstances. The honorable member for Bourke is under the impression that there were no instances of this in Australia. On the contrary there were a number of licences granted in Australia under a corresponding provision or under a preceding power in the last war, and if I take the opportunity to quote just two instances of many they may assist the committee. In one case on the 27th February, 1915. a licence was granted by His Excellency the Governor-
General. 1 quite agree with the suggestion for this to be done by Executive order. There is in that some greater security, and my colleague the right honorable Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has indicated that, he will accept that. It might be worth reading this as an example: A firm named Chapman & Company of Sydney were attorneys for Australia of the Aachen and Munich Fire Insurance Company, the head office of which company was situated in Germany. The recitals of the licence go on in these terms -
And whereas in respect of insurance businesses transacted before the commencement of the present state of war certain sums of money are duo. to the Aachen & Munich Company by persons resident in Australia, and certain other sums of money are due by the said Aachen & Munich Company to persons resident in Australia
That is to say, a lot. of uncompleted transactions in which money claims had arisen -
And whereas it is desirable that a licence should be issued subject to certain conditions permitting the payment to and receipt ‘by the attorneys for Australia of the said Aachen & Munich Fire Insurance Company of the fi mtmentioned sums of money-
That is money owing to the company - and the payment to and receipt by persona resident in Australia of the last-mentioned sums of money:
Then the licence goes on to permit these payments under certain conditions. If no such licence had been granted, persons residing in Australia who, as the result of transactions before the war had claims against this company, could not have received payment, although the money was in Australia and available through agents in Australia.
– Could you not specify that in the bill?
– No, because it is one of thousands of instances. If somebody has to have the task of writing out in advance all the various cases that may arise, I certainly will not undertake the task.
– How many cases were there in Australia?
– I cannot answer offhand, but the honorable member will find a number of them in the manual of emergency legislation in the last war, from which I am quoting. Another instance of an entirely different kind is one that also happened in Australia. This will appeal very largely to the honorable member for Bourke, lt concerns appeals made in connexion with the Thuringen and Neumunster, two German steamships which, had been deemed to be in Prize, and there were proceedings in Australia in relation to those ships. The Supreme Court of Western Australia adjudicated in proceedings in Prize against the two vessels, and judgment was given by that court deeming those two steamships, the Thuringen and the Neumunster, as good and lawful prize. But the court granted leave to appeal. When that was granted the question arose as to whether the local agents for the respective owners of the two vessels should be given opportunity to get instructions in relation to the appeals. We pride ourselves on the fact that the rule of law still runs iri British courts during time of war, and no foreigner is deprived, of access to the court.
– The law against murder docs not prevail in war.
– If the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) wants to maintain the view that there is no justice to be got for the foreigner in the Australian courts if this country happens to be at war, I do not subscribe to that view. Consequently, licences were granted to the agents for the respective owners - to obtain instructions from their principals as to whether the appeals should be proceeded with and, if the principals are of the opinion that the appeals should be proceeded with, to obtain the necessary funds for the purpose of lodging the required security and for local expenses in connexion with the appeals.
I know nothing about the merits of the Thuringen and Neumunster cases. It was a creditable decision by the government of the day. I pay an indirect compliment to my colleague the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) in saying that. Nobody could have anticipated in advance that that sort of case would occur, but when it does occur it is essential that the Government should have power to depart from what would, otherwise be the rigid rule of the statute in order to produce a measure of justice to an Australian or a measure of justice, as in that case, to a foreigner so long as it does not, in any event, interfere with the prosecution of the war, and so long as it does not mean that there is, in fact, strengthening of the economic position of the enemy with whom we are engaged.
One honorable gentleman said that these licences should be known. I quite agree. I have no objection whatever to this clause having inserted in it a phrase to indicate that any licence granted must be gazetted. Then it will be a matter of public knowledge. But, subject to these two qualifications, the one suggested by the Attorney-General, and the other that I have suggested, “May by licence under his hand published in Government Gazette “ - some such words as that - “ exempt . . . “. I suggest that it is a clause of real importance. It has worked out in the past quite fairly, and nobody need assume that any government in Australia of any party whatever would dream of granting licences of a kind which would be of veal assistance to the enemy or would weaken the resources of our own country.
.- Earlier I raised the possibility of a commodity which should not come to Australia being brought here. I particularize magnesium from an Anglo-German firm for use in the manufacture of aeroplanes in Australia. There is no magnesium in Great Britain, and I maintain that the magnesium that will come from this Anglo-German firm will be from Germany. What is going to happen about that contract? Will these people be allowed to carry out that contract, or when this legislation is passed will that contract be cancelled ? In order to get magnesium Britain must import it from Austria, Russia, Manchukuo or America. There is an agreement with an Anglo-German firm for the supply of magnesium to an Australian company, and I -believe that this clause giving power to grant licences will be used to enable a licence to be given for the purchase by the
Australian people who are manufacturing aeroplanes in Australia of magnesium from Germany. We can supply all of our needs of magnesium, and I want to see any move to import magnesium from Germany through England stopped ; and unless the Minister can give me a satisfactory assurance that it will be stopped, I shall vote against the clause. I will not allow Germany to supply this country with commodities which we can supply ourselves. I know that loopholes are left in all pieces of legislation to enable trade and commerce between countries to continue, but let us make this legislation watertight. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) talked about insurance premiums and then gave another illustration about steamships, but, unless I gain my point in this specific case, 1 shall have to charge the right honorable gentleman with trading with the enemy. We must prevent the resources of Germany from coming to this country, because Germany will benefit by the supply of such commodities to us. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) deliberately misled honorable members and misrepresented the case in order to win the argument for his colleague the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes).
– Do not say anything like that.
– “ Deliberately “, 1 repeat. We should not have misrepresentation when we are dealing with legislation to meet a national crisis.
– I made no misleading statement. The honorable member did not understand what I said.
– The Assistant Treasurer would say that. He does not know what he said.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member for Denison will confine his remarks to the clause.
– This product must not he allowed to be imported to Australia from Germany by devious channels even though it be necessary for the manufacture of aeroplanes. If the manufac ture of aeroplanes is to proceed, and magnesium is a necessary product in that manufacture, our requirements can be adequately filled from Australian resources. I understand that the Government has already agreed to allow the contract for the supply of this commodity by the Anglo-German company to continue.
Sitting suspended from G.15 io 8 p.m.
– Before I cast my vote on this legislation which has as its aim the protection of the Australian people and the people of the British Commonwealth of Nations, I should like to be sure that it is watertight. This clause should be so worded that there will be no doubt in the minds of honorable members that advantage may be taken of a loophole to carry on trade with those with whom we are at waT. That is all I. ask. If that is done we shall have a united front which is highly desirable, not only among the nations of the British Commonwealth, but also among the various parties of this House in respect of legislation designed to bring about a speedy and successful end to the conflict in which we are now engaged. I have given a clear illustration of how the loophole in this clause might be utilized. I do not suggest that the right honorable the Attorney-General would be a party to such transactions, but we must look into the future. He might not then be in office, and this struggle may go on for many years. Great care must be taken in the drafting of legislation such as this. In wartime, as in any other time, exploiters are ready to take advantage of anything which may assist them to make profits. I urge the Attorney-General to agree to amendments which have been suggested so as to make this clause watertight.
– Apparently there is now very little dividing us. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has supplied me with a suggested amendment which I shall read for the information of the committee.
– That is contingent upon the right honorable gentleman moving his prior amendment providing that licences issued shall be published in the Gazette and also that exemption shall be given by the Governor-General and not by the Minister.
– That is so. I intend to move an amendment to leave out the words “ or a Minister,” in sub-clause 1. The amendment suggested by the honorable member for Bourke is as follows : -
No transaction shall be exempt pursuant to this section or to any proclamation made under this act unless the Governor-General declares that he is satisfied that the effect of the completion of the transaction will not be directly or indirectly to supply an enemy country with goods, wares or merchandise.
I would like to offer some observations with regard to this proposed amendment, but before doing so, I move -
That the words “ or a Minister “ sub-clause i be omitted.
-Will the right honorable gentleman move his other amendment as well, to provide for the publication of licences in the Gazette? The two could be taken together.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Chair has understood from the right honorable the Prime Minister that the amendment following upon the suggestion made was that after the word “ hand “ sub-clause 1, the words “ published in the Gazette “ should be added.
– That is so, but the amendment which I shall move later will have greater clarity if it is inserted as a new sub-clause. It will read -
Every licence granted in pursuance of this section shall be published in the Gazette.
Amendment agreed to.
– Before I formally move to insert the proposed subclause, I should like to say that during the suspension of the sitting I took an opportunity to examine the records of cases which occurred during the last war, and I have ascertained that a very large number of licences were granted. I point out that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) informed the committee this afternoon that section 9r, which is the equivalent to clause 15 of this bill, was not in the 1914 act. The honorable member said that I was in error in supposing that it was. I stand corrected, but in his deduction that licences had not been granted until 1916 he himself has erred. Although the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1914 did not include the licensing provision, licensing powers were exercised by the Governor-General in Council under the authority of a proclamation by the King as from the 8th October, 1914. This proclamation was published in the Commonwealth Gazette on the 12th October, 1914.
– That is quite right. I was in error.
– The first licence issued by means of proclamation and executive authority appears on page 2345 in the Gazette of 1914. The issue of licences in this way continued until 1916, when action was taken under statutory authority, that is to say, when section 9s of the act was brought into force. I have looked at a number of cases and I am bound to say that they are most extraordinary. The honorable gentleman suggested that we could set out the cases in which exemptions might properly be granted in respect of classes of transactions or perhaps individual transactions. I refer the honorable gentleman to the volume because I know that he is desirous of putting his case accurately. In the meantime, I shall read one or two of the eases. A licence was granted on the 25th September, 1914, by the British Board of Trade acting under exactly the same authority, namely, proclamation by the King, to the British owners of cargo lying in a neutral port in a ship owned by the enemy, to pay freight on the goods in order to have them sent to the owners. The consignee had paid for the goods and desired delivery but could not get delivery unless he paid the shipowner the freight due on them, and he could not pay the freight without a licence. Therefore, he could not get the goods he had paid for. Another case relates to an entirely different set of circumstances. In the Pacific there is a number of islands winch before the last war were German possessions. They were annexed by Australia and trade had to be carried on with them. Sometimes the trade was with enemy subjects. As I have said, the islands were in the Bang’s possession. The territories were originally German and, being within the prohibited range, trade could not be carried on with enemy subjects in them without a licence. Technically, this was a case of trading with the enemy, not for the benefit of the enemy, but for the benefit of Australia. I submit that in all the circumstances, and since we have met the Opposition quite fairly, and there can no longer be a suggestion that these licences might be granted for improper purposes - the transactions are to be published in the Gazette - the committee might well agree to the clause, as amended.
I move -
That at the end of sub-clause ( 1 ) the following new sub-clause be inserted - 1(a) Every licence granted in pursuance of this section shall be published in the Gazette.
– There is no objection to that.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I submit a new sub-clause which will remove the doubts and difficulties which have arisen. I agree with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) that licences were granted under powers conferred by Royal proclamation, made at the outbreak of war, which prohibited trading with the enemy, and authorized the Secretary of State and the Board of Trade to grant licences. Subsequently, in October, 1914, the power to grant licences in respect of British possessions and dominions was entrusted to the Governor-General and the Government. Under that power, 29 licences were granted in the years 1914, 1915, 1916. I have looked at the index of those licences, and I do not think that there was anything in them to which objection could be taken. It would be possible to enumerate fairly exhaustively the classes of licences which ought to be granted. I am not concerned greatly about that aspect, but there is one class of transaction in respect of which no licences should be granted; I refer t« transactions which would enable an enemy country to get goods, wares or merchandise. I therefore move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted - 1(b) No transaction shall be exempt pursuant to this section or to any proclamation made under this act unless the Governor-General declares that he is satisfied that the effect of the completion of the transaction will not be directly or indirectly to supply on enemy country with goods, wares or merchandise.
In view of the English practice, we must face the possibility of the power to grant licences being prescribed by proclamation, apart altogether from the statute, and therefore I have drafted the new sub-clause in such a way as to provide that the Governor-General shall not authorize any transaction unless he declares that he is satisfied that the effect will not be to supply an enemy country with goods, wares or merchandise. In the English proclamation of the 9th September, 1914, the following words were employed - “not directly or indirectly to supply to, or for the use or benefit of, an enemy any goods, ware3 or merchandise “. I have retained that phrasing as far as possible. It is necessary to have something like this, in order to satisfy the people that the purpose of the clause, while not prohibiting trading between Australians and the enemy, will be to ensure that Australian products will not ultimately find their way to an enemy country.
– The honorable member has moved an amendment which, following an amendment already made, will create a position which I venture to say he could hardly desire Sub-clause (1) as amended reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the Governor-General may, by licence under his hand, exempt any particular transaction or class of transactions from the provisions of this act.
Now the honorable gentleman says that, notwithstanding that exemption, the GovernorGeneral may not grant a licence unlesshe is satisfied that the transaction will not, either directly or indirectly, supply an enemy country with goods, wares or merchandise. I remind him that it, is the Governor-General who, in the first instance, will grant the exemption. Are we to suppose that he will grant it, knowing that it will, or may, work harm to the country of which he is the head? Are we to say to the Governor-General “ You may do a certain thing so long as you publish the information in the Gazette; but you must not do it unless you are satisfied that it will be in the best interests of the country “? The GovernorGeneral would not grant the exemption in the first instance if he thought that it would be against the best interests of Australia. I cannot accept the amendment.
– When I raised this question of principle early in this discussion, the objection to ray contention was that I was limiting my view entirely to the question of trade, and that there were numbers of other transactions which, in the nature of things, would not be related to trade, such as the supplying of materials, either raw or fabricated, to enemy countries, but would consist of a great variety of unpredictable financial transactions, such as insurance, or cargo in ships in neutral ports, which Australia might desire to obtain in order to recruit its own material capacity to carry on the struggle. The Opposition wishes to make it clear that trading with the enemy in a time of war is an offence against the nation’s capacity to wage war.
– Certainly it is.
– That, indeed, is the purport of the bill. We have reached the stage where the Government says that, notwithstanding the other consequences to Australia of trading with the enemy, the right is reserved to the Governor-General, under clause 15, to permit certain trading transactions with the enemy. The Government is attempting to justify that power to exempt certain classes of transactions on the ground that if it did not have that discretion, hardship might be clone either to
Australians or to the interests of Australians. To the extent that the Government foresees that possibility, the Opposition will yield, but the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) does not affect, trading transactions with enemy countries which have for their purpose the securing of supplies of materials or goods for Australia. What the amendment seeks to ensure is that goods, materials or wares shall not be supplied to an enemy country. We say that, whilst the Governor-General may have the power to exempt from the statute transactions relating to goods coming to Australia, he ought not to exempt transactions which have for their purpose the sending of goods to an enemy country.
– Is the GovernorGeneral likely to grant exemptions under those conditions?
– This Parliament is charged with the responsibility of informing His Excellency as to what conditions’ it thinks ought to exist in respect of the issuance of exemptions. We are here to frame the law ;. and in that law we ought to set out clearly and explicitly the conditions under which licences may be granted.
– Are they not set out in clause 5?
– Yes ; but under clause 15 the Governor-General, which means the Cabinet, has an unfettered discretion to permit transactions between Australia and enemy countries.
– All such transactions would have to be notified in the Gazette.
– Tha t provision was not in the bill until the Opposition pressed for it. At this juncture we ask the Government to put into the statute this distinction, namely, that whereas the Governor-General may permit exemptions from this statute in respect of transactions that relate to goods corning to Australia from enemy countries, he ought not to grant exemptions in respect of transactions that relate to goods going to an enemy country. I am certain that His Excellency would prefer that Parliament should state the conditions under which exemptions may he granted than that he should decide them for himself. It is the business of this Parliament to decide the law of this land. We ought to say in the statute that no exemption shall be permitted in respect of goods intended for enemy countries. That is the purpose of the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke. Although the AttorneyGeneral did not agree to it when he spoke, he appears to have been won over, for he has now nodded in the affirmative. If, however, be still resists the proposal, the obligation rests on him to give good reasons for doing so. With respect I submit that it is not a sufficient reason to say that we can trust the discretion of the Governor-General. The term “ Governor-General “ is merely a nominal description of the Government of the day. I do not distrust the bona fides of the Government of the day, but I point out that the Government will be fully occupied with a vast amount of work, and that details of this description will, in the nature of things, come to it as recommendations from subordinate officers, some of whom will be working many hours each day. Cases .will be submitted to them by interested persons. I have already mentioned in this House to-day the vast amount of money involved in this illegal trading in time of war. There is an enormous bootleg traffic in it, as the right honorable gentleman knows. We think that it is right and proper to make it unnecessary for Ministers to have submitted to them requests to allow goods from this country to go to an enemy country. If we make the necessary provision in the statute, Ministers will be spared the obligation of having to adjudicate as to whether a licence should or should not be granted. In my view, we are either at war with Germany or we are not, and if we are, there ought not to go from this country any contribution which might tend to augment Germany’s economic capacity to carry on the struggle.
– The honorable gentleman is very persuasive, and very much in earnest, but I am sure that he realizes that while under democratic government it is the function of an Opposition to oppose, it is the business Of the Government to govern ; to get on with the work of the country ; and I say that, until we pass this legislation, we cannot deal with trading with the enemy. At this very moment, if I gave my imagination free rein, I could draw a picture of Machiavelian plots now being hatched by agencies of the enemy. If by any chance we can get this legislation through in a few minutes we can trap them; we can foil them. I leave that aspect of the matter, and now address myself to my friend, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I am sure he will see that, if his amendment is accepted, the certificate for which it provides must be attached to every individual case. The honorable gentleman’s amendment reads -
– The more often the right honorable gentleman reads it, the more virtue I see in it.
– Supposing it should be a case of the payment of money by an enemy to an Australian citizen. I think that it would be very difficult for even an honorable member so thoroughly versed as is the honorable member for Bourke in the wiles of the law, and the scope that exists for a legal explanation in respect of everything, to make out of that the possibility of doing any damage to Australia; yet this “tag” has to be put on it.
– Oh, no, that is where the goods had reached Germany. Nothing could be done in that case.
– To say of a case like . that, that the Governor-General must ba satisfied that no damage can be done to Australia, would be absurd. How could it do damage to Australia! I resume my seat with this parting observation - I am almost, but not quite, persuaded.
.- The conferring on the Governor-General of a power is a polite and deferential way of saying that you are conferring power upon the Cabinet. The effect of the clause is to confer upon the Cabinet the power to disregard the provisions of the act in any specific case or any classes of cases. It could exempt a special transaction; it could exempt classes of transactions. I submit that the effect of such a power being reserved to the Government would be to excite in the minds of outside persons as well as of members of this House, the . fear that the power will be misused and negligently used, and that licences will be granted which will enable Australian or other goods to be sent from Australia to Germany. It ought to be quite easy for the GovernorGeneral’s advisers to inform their minds and his mind in such a way that he will be able to give a certificate. There is not the slightest reason why every Gazette notice authorizing a transaction should not contain a statement that the transaction has been examined and that His Excellency is satisfied that the effect of its completion will not be to supply goods, wares or merchandise to the enemy country. That ought to be the first consideration ; every transaction should be examined from that aspect, and unless it stands that test - unless it is clearly one which will not have the effect of supplying goods, wares or merchandise to Germany - it should not be certified. I cannot see in my proposal any evidence of distrust of Ministers, distrust of the Cabinet, or distrust of the GovernorGeneral. I believe that Ministers should not ask to be vested with unfettered power. To my mind, a man who asks to be vested with unfettered power is very foolish. A Minister should say to Parliament, “ I want you to lay down the limits of my power”; and I think that Parliament should say, “We are going to lay clown the limits of your power “, whether the Ministry is willing or not.
– It is hot always wise to do that.
– I think that it is wise in this ease. When Ministers are being given a power that they can exercise in recess, when the Ministers to whom it is given have the power to keep Parliament out of session for six months if they care to do so - and they often do - when you have no control over Ministers during certain periods, then I think it is right to impose a statutory fetter upon their discretion. That is the sole object of my proposed new sub-clause. No Government which really wanted to satisfy the people of its bona fides could object to such a provision. I leave the matter to the committee.
Question put -
That the proposed new sub-clause (Mr. Blackburn’s amendment) be agreed to.
The House divided. (TheChairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
In 1914 the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act conferring admiralty jurisdiction on the High Court of Australia, and as is required by the law it was reserved for the Royal assent. That assent was given, but it was not made known within the prescribed period of two years. Whether the Judiciary Act, which purported to confer admiralty jurisdiction for the purposes covered by the Colonial Courts Admiralty Act, was or was not a valid exercise of that power is open to doubt. If it is valid, its effect may be to deprive the State Supreme Courts of their jurisdiction. Under the Colonial Courts Admiralty Act every civil court of unlimited jurisdiction, in a British possession is given jurisdiction in admiralty. In 1914 it was thought desirable to confer admiralty jurisdiction on the High Court so asto bring about uniformity, and that the exercise of this jurisdiction by the several State Supreme Courts would lead to confusion. In 1924 a case, that ofJ ohn Sharp Limited v. the ship Katherine Machall, came before the High Court. The majority of that court held that the court had jurisdiction as it had unlimited civil jurisdiction within the meaning of the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act. ‘Mr. Justice Isaacs expressed a doubt as to validity of the Act ; but the experience gained during the war dissipated the doubt we had as to the wisdom of distributing jurisdiction over the various State Supreme Courts. We did not experience any of the difficulties anticipated, and in fact some most excellent decisions were given by the State courts. In short, the machinery worked well. If the Act is a valid exercise of the powers of the Commonwealth, it would seem to deprivethe States of their jurisdiction.
– On what grounds?
– We are satisfied that as a result of the experience gained during the previous war the exercise of concurrent jurisdiction by the State courts will not militate against the efficient and speedy procedure desirable. It is, therefore, proposed to repeal the Act, and to allow jurisdiction in admiralty to exist concurrently in the High Court and the Supreme Courts of the States. There is nothing else in the measure. It is for honorable members to determine whether in the circumstances we should rely on the validity of the existing Act which, if valid, destroys the jurisdiction in admiralty of the State Supreme Courts; or whether both the High Court and the State Courts should have jurisdiction.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) has, I think, put the position clearly. The High Court of Australia has had conferred upon it by an act of this Parliament passed in 1914 original admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and the same act declared that the Colonial Courts Admiralty Act, an imperial statute, confers such jurisdiction. The High Court of Australia has held that, apart altogether from that section, the High Court has the jurisdiction under the imperial statute. The Attorney-General has informed the House that in his opinion and in the opinion of his advisers the effect of the maintenance of the Judiciary Act of 3914 which gave this jurisdiction to the High Court may be to deprive the State Supreme Courts of their jurisdiction, whereas if this act is repealed the High Court and the State Supreme Courts will possess admiralty jurisdiction. I am not prepared to say whether that is or is not the position, but the speedy passage of the bill may be necessary if there is any real doubt as to whether State courts can exercise admiralty prize jurisdiction because any day it may be necessary for action to be taken.
– “What kind of action?
– A vessel may be seized and the question would arise as to whether the vessel had been properly seized and whether it could or could not be disposed of. That would have to be decided by a court. The AttorneyGeneral says that he and his advisers are of the opinion that the act passed in 1914 is valid, and that the High Court has jurisdiction and the State courts may be deprived of their powers. If that position exists, it seems dangerous. The passage of this measure will, according to the Attorney-General, leave the High Court and the State Supreme Courts with the necessary jurisdiction.
– Would not the High Court have jurisdiction in the event of an appeal ?
– This relates not to appeals but to original jurisdiction. There is a difference between original and appellate jurisdiction. The High Court, which has appellate jurisdiction, derives its jurisdiction first from the Constitution, and secondly from the statutes of this Parliament. In 1914, the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act which purported to confer upon the High Court admiralty jurisdiction, and endeavoured to provide that ‘ that court should bo a court of admiralty jurisdiction within the meaning of the imperial act. Doubt has been expressed whether that act has actually received the Royal assent within the statutory time. If that act is valid, the Attorney-General says that the High Court alone has jurisdiction, and that the State Supreme Courts may be deprived of their jurisdiction. I do not know whether that is or is not right. In view of the fact that it is desirable to have this doubt removed, and this measure does not interfere with the rights of any one - it merely enables the judicial system to operate, more expeditiously - I do not propose to offer any opposition to the bill. I feel, however, that the proposition of law made by the AttorneyGeneral is open to doubt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to make provision for the safety and defence of the Commonwealth and of its territories during the present state of war. It is a farreaching measure which gives extensive powers to the Government, and in that respect follows the model of legislation with which most honorable members are already familiar. In 1914, the Commonwealth Parliament passed what is known as the War Precautions Act, which was amended from time to time up to 1918. At the same time, in Great Britain, there was a war time measure known as the Defence of the Realm Act. The unhappy circumstance by which we find ourselves at war makes it once more necessary that very great powers should be obtained in order to deal promptly and effectively with the various problems that will arise in relation to national defence. In Great Britain, special legislation of this kind was, in fact, passed before the war began. The Commonwealth Government is to-day taking extensive powers under the emergency provisions of the Defence Act to do just the kind of things that are referred to in the legislation which I am now introducing. The bill itself is, to some extent, modelled on the War Precautions Act, though there are differences. I believe it can be said that, in several respects, this bill is an improvement on the War Precautions Act. There are several respects in which it meets some of the real criticism that was directed against the War Precautions Act, and in one or two respects its provisions go further than did those of the previous legislation. Speaking broadly, however, the bill is of the same pattern as the previous measure. Every body will agree that, in an emergency of this kind, large powers must be taken, and particularly in circumstances where we cannot clearly foretell the future. We do not know the precise nature of any emergency we may have to confront, whether that emergency be economic or military. Consequently, in this bill, the Government asks Parliament to grant wide powers to the Executive.
At a time like this, it is essential that there should, as far as possible, be one authority that can deal with all matters of moment. This was brought out during the discussion yesterday, and to-day on the matter of price control in dealing with profiteering. Normally, that matter does not come within the competence of this Parliament,, except, perhaps, by some extraordinary legal stratagem. It was held during the last war, however, in a leading case that the Commonwealth may, under its defence power, exercise its power to fix the price of commodities. I imagine that some lawyers might have been surprised when they found that the fixation of the price of bread in a shop at Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, came under tlie defence power, but the High Court found that it did. In that decision, and in others, the Commonwealth was confirmed in the exercise of far-reaching powers in time of war. Consequently, we are able, by means of regulation, to deal with such matters as the price of goods, matters which, in normal circumstances, we might have some difficulty in touching at all. The pronouncement I made to honorable members regarding the policy of the Government in connexion with profiteering, was a declaration of action intended to be taken primarily under the regulations which can be made under this bill. Some days ago, when there was a state of tension and danger of war, we propounded a series of regulations under the Defence Act relating to the control of aliens, exchange, and other matters of that kind. It is proposed to remake those regulations under this bill when it becomes an act, and to include in this bill a provision validating generally the steps that have already been taken, so that we may go ahead in complete certainty with the thousand matters which will require our attention. I think it will be agreed, even by the most ardent critic of what one learned judge called the
New Despotism, as he described the system of government by regulations, that, in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, it would be quite impossible effectively to carry on the administration of this country in relation to the war, and the things that flow from it, and at the same time ask Parliament to deal with all the matters of detail arising out of the shifts and changes that may occur. Consequently, we ask this Parliament, as the British Parliament asks its Parliament, to arm the Government with flexible and far-reaching powers to carry on the war and safeguard the interests of Australia and the Australian territories.
I shall refer at a later stage to two or three outstanding provisions of the bill, but before doing so I ought, perhaps, to make a general observation on this problem which, I know, is by no .means free of contention. We are asking Parliament to hand over to the Executive a very great reservoir of power, and it may well be said - indeed, it has been said on previous occasions - that in so doing we incur grave risk in the limitation of freedom of the individual, and in the limitation of parliamentary control. I frankly admit that we do. That risk must always be run, if it is necessary to run it, in order to avoid running a greater one. That is the principle upon which this class of legislation proceeds. However, I want to say this for myself, and for this Government, and this Parliament also : That whatever may be the extent of the power that may be taken to govern, to direct, and to control by regulation, there must be as little interference with individual rights as is consistent with concerted national effort. That, I believe, is the principle that should guide any executive armed with powers of this kind. I am very well aware of the dangers of the “ official mind “. I am well aware that we have, perhaps, not been without experience in the past of some want of understanding, by rigid minds clothed with authority, of the rights and privileges of ordinary people. I assure tha House that I am aware of this danger, and am in no way lacking in determination to take what measures are necessary to guard against it.
– This legislation can lie made much worse by bad administration.
– That is a fair comment. Legislation of this kind can be made an instrument of repression in bad hands, just as it can be made an instrument for national security in competent and sensitive hands. As I pointed out before, we must remember that the greatest tragedy that could overcome a* country would be for it to fight a successful war in defence of liberty, and lose its own liberty in the process. There is no intention on the part of the Government to use these powers when they are granted, as I am sure they will be, in any way other than to promote the security of Australia.
– They were used ruthlessly during the last war.
– I am prepared to answer only for myself, and I hope that when the time comes for me to cease to exercise these powers, I shall be able to say that they were exercised firmly, definitely, and promptly, but without intolerance, and with a due respect for the interests of minorities.
– I hope the honorable gentleman realizes that he has associated with him some who, during the last war, exercised these powers with undue severity.
– I am familiar with the character of each one of my colleagues, and what I have said can be taken as representing the opinion of the Government. I agree in advance that we must preserve Australia - that is why I have introduced this bill - but we must also preserve liberalism of thought in Australia ; we must preserve as much freedom of thought and action as is con,sistent with the safety of Hie country. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said, that we may reach a point where the safety of the country may require that Jones or Brown should be stopped from doing something or saying something; but in every case, the real test should be, “ Is this related to the safety of the country ? “ - not, “ Is this a golden opportunity to suppress the opinions of some one who does not agree with me?” That is my faith. In that. I announce my own creed, and the creed of the Government. If I were not able to say that, I should have the greatest possible reluctance in asking Parliament to ann the Government with these powers, but, because I can say that truthfully, 1 have no hesitation whatever in asking Parliament to do now what it did 25 years ago; that is, to arm the Government with the authority necessary to carry on this struggle, which may become a very grim struggle even for Australia before we are. much older.
The only provision in the bill to which I would direct attention, although honorable members will, no doubt, take notice of all of them, are contained in two or three clauses. Clause 5 is the principal operative clause, because it empowers the Governor-General to make regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the Common- . wealth and its territories, and in respect of a number of matters, the principal of which relate to the acquiring of property of various kinds, and the course of action to be followed by alien enemies, including the times, places and prices, in the disposal or use of any property, good.–, articles or things of any kind. This clause also contains certain other provisions relating to aliens and naturalized persons, and the preventing of money or goods from being sent out of the Commonwealth except under conditions approved by any Minister of State. Various other regulation-making powers are also contained in. this clause. I have no desire to refer to each of them, but I direct the attention of honorable members to each of them because each of them is very extensive and enables a great mass of regulations to be made. Sub-clause 7 contains a new provision which was no: in the War Precautions legislation. It reads -
Nothing in this section shall authorize -
the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service, or any form of industrial conscription;
That is to say, to the extent to which those matters are dealt with by legislation, however they are dealt with, that will be the rule; but we cannot by regulation under this legislation bring in any of these matters. Sub-clause 7 also provides -
That again is a provision which, I think, will commend itself to honorable members.
– That would not affect the authority of the Government to legislate independently of this measure?
– No. The point which I wish to emphasize here is that the Government could not under this regulation-making power do those things, though it can in relation to any matter within its constitutional competence submit a bill and ask Parliament to pass it. The only point here is that the Government cannot do these things behind the back of Parliament by means of regulations.
– What is the significance of sub-clause 3?
– Two things can be done under this legislation. One is that the Executive can make regulations authorized by clause 5. In relation to those regulations the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act apply as we settled them in the Acts Interpretation Act 1937. That is, the regulations are notified in the Gazette and are subject to disallowance under certain rules. Where those regulations provide for the making of orders, rules or by-laws by any person they can bc disallowed by the Minister
– Who are those persons ?
– It is impossible to say in advance. If, as I indicated this morning, we should set up a commission or authority to deal with prices, we should have to empower that authority to make by-laws or orders - in that case, particular orders - directing that a certain price should, or should not, be charged.
– But the power with respect to price fixing is not limited to this provision.
– This power is merely taken in order to make it quite clear that persons can be empowered by regulation to make by-laws or orders. The difference between by-laws and orders on the one hand and on the other regulations which empower the making of such by-laws and orders is that the bylaws and orders can be disallowed by tbe Minister, but the regulations can be disallowed only by the House under the Acts Interpretation Act. Then clause 7, in substance, validates any regulation already made, or gives an indemnity in relation to any step taken under a regulation.
Clauses 10 to 14 deal with the trial of offences, and include special provisions which are designed to enable the authorities to nip in the bud any criminal plan which, if carried out, might cause damage to the community. I may say that the legislation that obtained on a previous occasion provided for trial by court martial in certain circumstances, but clause 5, sub-clause 7, to which I have already referred, prevents trial by court martial except in the case of those who are subject to naval, military or air force law.
– Is there any special reason for that change?
– The reason can, perhaps, be best expressed in this way: There is, and I think properly so, a very great objection in Australia to submitting to. the method of trial by conrt martial persons who are not subject to military law. There is a very great objection to the notion of a civilian, a person not subject to naval, military or air force law, being subject to a form of trial which is other than the usual form of trial to which a civilian may appeal.
–Would that mean that a case of espionage, or sabotage, would go before a civil court?
– It means that a person not subject to military law would not be tried by court martial, but, as the honorable member will see, there are certain procedural clauses. If a charge relating to espionage, or sabotage, could readily be established in a civil court the person charged would have the satisfaction of knowing that he was being dealt with before a civil court and not before a court which he thought might not be impartial to him. I do not . say that as a general reflection on the method of court martial, but that method has been worked out over a long period of years as a method appropriate to persons subject to military law, and this provision is designed to preserve the normal rights of a person not subject to military law.
I have no doubt that a good many points will arise in the minds of honorable members which are essentially points for consideration in committee, and I shall defer what I have to say on any particular clause until the committee stage. I have just described the general form of this legislation, and for the reasons that I have indicated, reasons which I am sure will commend themselves to this House, I ask honorable members to agree to the second reading of this measure.
Ml-. CURTIN (Fremantle- Leader of the Opposition) [9.26]. - We do not need to be reminded that this measure is not the first of its kind to be introduced into this Parliament. In a time of war it would appear to be the practice of governments to administer the defence of the country either by regulation or by decree. Our experience in the last war suggests that whilst the powers of the Government must be expanded, it is very important that we ensure that the authority of the legislature shall not be superseded. Whilst there ought to be given to the Executive certain authority in order that it may promptly deal with matters and its administration may be efficient, yet having regard to the varying changes which may take place in the course of the struggle, it appears very important that the Parliament should be assured not only of a power of veto over what the Government may arbitrarily decide upon, but also, if that power of veto over the Executive is to be retained, opportunities to exercise it, in order that we may maintain tothe utmost the democratic character of this nation. I appreciate what the
Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, and I am certain that the country will interpret his speech as a realization that the powers which he is seeking for the Government are powers which should not be abused. His declaration that he would not be at all pleased with a muzzled Opposition can be regarded as evidence that he does not desire under the present duress to repeat a great deal of what occurred 25 years ago.
There are some thingswhich I consider should be said at the outset. One is that this bill, in effect, asks the Parliament to transfer to the Executive the whole of the law-making authority over the activities of the people while the war is on. It really means that. It is much more than the giving of a great reservoir of power to the Executive. It is in effect a statute-making authority which the Go- ‘ vernment itself may exercise under circumstances which will make it exceedingly difficult for the Parliament to have very much voice in affecting the decisions that the Government will make and express in regulations. This is a tremendously important matter. I am reminded that 25 years ago I first sought entrance to this Parliament. I was defeated by a gentleman who had been Premier of Victoria, who later sat in this House as the member for Balaclava and became Acting Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. In the debates in connexion with the introduction of the War Precautions Bill in the House of Representatives he said that the bill struck a blow at many important principles which had been built up after centuries of endeavour, principles of which the Parliament approved. He said that the necessities of war no doubt meant that the Parliament would have to give much greater power to the Executive; but he added -
We must preserve the principlethat even in time of war individuals in a democracy have rights as well as the community, and while the safety of the community is the supreme law, the rights of individuals must be considered as far as possible, consistent with the preservation of that safety.
This legislation which no doubt we shall pass in some form, means very much more than control over commodities, materials and equipment, and the acquisition of land: it gives to the Executive power over the citizens and over a large measure of their civil rights.
– That is where the great danger lies.
– Yes ; but it is a danger which at the moment, in the light of the speech of the Prime Minister, we can regard as not excessively great or as not starkly threatening.
– But the right honorable gentleman will not handle all the details.
– We do not know what changes are to take -place in the Government of this country. We do not know how long this Ministry will continue in office, or how long the war will last. I remind the right honorable gentleman that after the elections in 1914 a govern- ment was formed which appeared to have a commanding majority in both Houses of the Parliament. That government had given to it powers which in some respects were greater than those sought by this bill and in others as the Prime Minister has said’ not quite so great. But the Government underwent changes because of altered opinion, not changes in the country in the Government, but changes on the part of Ministers themselves, and, as a consequence, the whole complexion of the Government was altered and the very assurances which were acceptable to the Parliament when the War Precautions Act .was passed, were no longer to be relied upon, even if the same men continued to administer those very great powers. The march .of events frequently transforms a minor power into a major opportunity. I do not anticipate - because it would appear to me to be quite unjustified at this stage - any endeavour on the part of the Government to depart from the admittedly quite reasonable statements made by the Prime Minister yesterday and to-day; but is not all that beside the point 1 Is there not some way in which, without any doubt at all on our part- as to the bona fides of the declarations of the Prime Minister, we may be able in this legislation to conserve the authority of the Parliament? It is true that the Acts Interpretation Act provides a medium whereby regulations which members of the Parliament regard as obnoxious may be discussed and even be disallowed; but there is a vast difference between passing a law in this House and having a regulation, which would be equivalent to the law, tabled in this House, discussed, and examined in the light of its intrinsic merit. Before we make a law we have a clean slate - nobody has been affected by it. A regulation is an entirely different thing. Before Parliament has an opportunity to consider it, it has been in operation for some time, and there has developed a certain state of affairs. While in principle it may be wrong that that state of affairs should have been allowed to occur, none the less it may be exceedingly difficult to arrest the momentum of what has been done. Thus the Parliament finds itself in a cleft stick, in that if it undoes what the Government has already done it may, perhaps, create as many anomalies as would exist if it did not interfere. Because of that, Parliament frequently allows things to stand which, if they had not been started, it would not have approved” at all. Yesterday, a bill, somewhat like in character to the one now before the House, was brought before the Victorian Parliament. I am informed that that bill, when it becomes an act - I think it became an act to-day - is to operate far only twelve months; on the expiration of that period it must be renewed by the Parliament. The bill which has been presented to us is to operate for the duration of the war, and for six months thereafter. Of course it may be that the wai” will not last a long time ; but a provision should be inserted in the bill so that at some reasonable period the Parliament may review the whole character of the regulations that have been operating. The only practicable way to do that is for the Government to be obliged to meet Parliament after a specified period and ask that the act be renewed.
– If we follow the precedent of the last occasion Ave shall re-enact it all under the name of the War Precautions Repeal Act, and make it a part of the permanent law of the country.
– That is what happened with the Crimes Act. If provision bc made that this legislation shall expire in twelve months, the Parliament will have to be invoked before the Government oan continue to exercise the powers conferred on it under this bill. A year should be the maximum period for this law to operate without Parliament being called upon to re-enact it. I point out that the Income Tax Act - the act under which the people are taxed - has to be renewed annually. The bill now before us is one which taxes the civil life of the community in a great diversity of ways. I do not think that it is improper to suggest that the Government- should put a period to the duration of this measure, because Parliament can be conveniently summoned, and, in any event with the knowledge that the act will operate for only twelve months unless renewed, requisite opportunity will be taken by Ministers to see that Parliament is given time in which to consider the matter and to re-enact the law if, a year hence, it is thought necessary to do so. I am concerned, too, with the certainty that while this House is in recess regulations will be gazetted. We shall be able to deal with these regulations only while the Parliament is in session. Is the Parliament ready to give to the Executive the equivalent of a statute-making power during the recess? Under this bill regulations may be gazetted which in every respect will be the equivalent of laws and will cover a great variety of circumstances which at present we do not even envisage. I do not quite know what procedure might be invoked in order that there might be some scrutiny of these regulations before they are gazetted. The law says that they do not operate until they are gazetted. Obviously, nobody can know what the Government intends to gazette as a regulation until it is gazetted, and when that formality has been complied with the regulation is in full force. This Parliament may continue in recess for one or two months, during which the most grievous injustices can be done to the citizenship of Australia notwithstanding all the assurances that were given in this House yesterday and to-day.
– Do not the ordinary regulations become law before they come before the Parliament?
– Yes. I acknowledge, that the regulations likely to be gazetted under this bill are in the same category as regulations made under any other law ; but no other law of the Commonwealth covers so tremendously wide a scope of the organic, public and private life of this community as does this proposal. This bill will enable the Government to say in effect that in its judgment a certain thing is desirable for the defence of Australia, and having said that, it is enabled to make regulations concerning that matter. It relates, not only to the circumstances, but also to the authority over individuals, as set out here, and even if we had no experience whatever of what took place 25 years ago under the War Precautions Act, that in itself suggests that the whole life of the people is subject to this law and the regulation-making power of the Executive. I say to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) that house rents could be fixed by regulation under this measure, and the Executive need not appoint a tribunal or a committee to advise it as to what rents should be fixed. The Minister could fix what should be the maximum rent for a prescribed dwelling in the electorate of Martin. Of course, he could do more than that. It is quite clear that we are engaged here to-night in an examination of a measure that, in effect, has for its purpose the transference from the Parliament to the Executive of the lawmaking authority - the law which the people of Australia must observe. I quite appreciate that in all countries engaged in war it will be said that the expansion of the authority of the Executive is necessary for the effective conduct of the war. No doubt much is to be said in favour of clothing the Executive with very great powers, but it would not be necessary to give it powers to be exercised by means of regulations if Ministers could do their administrative work and at the same time keep the Parliament in session. I confess that I do not expect the Parliament to sit every day in the week, or every week in the month; yet I venture to say that it is reasonable to ask that Parliament shall sit regularly, so that there shall not be lengthy adjournments. If it sat. on two days a week, it would be possible for members who have responsibilities in regard to the preservation of the civil rights of the community, apart from their other responsibilities, to examine the regulations gazetted since the previous meeting of the Parliament, and, any objection taken to them, could be dealt with there and then. The very essence of safeguarding the rights of the people in this crisis is that not only the Government, but also the Parliament, should be able to act promptly when it considers that the Government has acted badly. This seems to me to be an important facet of our preparation for the tremendous problems confronting us.
I shall not examine the bill in detail now, but shall confine myself to the consideration of the principles of the measure. We can deal with the various clauses at the committee stage. I welcome, however, sub-clause 7 of clause 5, and I am also glad of the undertakings which the Government has given in regard to the preservation of existing industrial conditions, for it is made clear that this measure will not give the Government power to impose by regulations any method of industrial conscription. However great be the crisis, and however urgent the need for the Government to have these additional powers conferred upon it, we are yet in the very early stages of this conflict, and it would appear to me to be quite reasonable that the Government should, three or four months hence, if, unfortunately, the war should continue for that period, come to the Parliament so that the way in which these powers had been used could be reviewed. When the Prime Minister said that he did not wish a muzzled Opposition, what he implied was that he sought a vigilant and alert Parliament as the custodian of the rights and liberties of the people. He did not mean that I was not to be muzzled in making speeches in public places or in addressing audiences anywhere, or that members who sit with me were to be compelled to be silent. What I understood the right honorable gentleman to desire was an honest and, I hope, intelligent Parliament to do its work of exacting from him and his colleagues periodical -accounts of their stewardship.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sure that that is what he meant, and, therefore, I contend *hat there should be a time limit to the operation of this measure which gives tremendous powers to the Executive. With a time limit upon the operation of the bill, the obligation would be twofold. The Government would not only have to meet the Parliament when the act was about to expire, but because of the obligation to meet the Parliament there would be a double guarantee that the powers conferred upon the Executive would be carefully and prudently exercised. Although we may transfer this reservoir of power to the Executive, if at the same time we say that the Government must not exercise it for a longer period than we specify, the very fact that the Government had to come to the Parliament for a renewal of its tremendous authority would be the surest guarantee of a bona fide performance of the undertakings given.
I have only to regret that the Administration will be charged with so much responsibility that, in asking that the Parliament should be able to review regularly what Ministers are doing, I am putting forward a plea that is not founded on any suspicion whatever that these powers will be deliberately misused. I have to say to Ministers that I am conscious, as I am sure they are, of the enormous volume of work that will devolve upon them, and of the great dependence that they will inevitably have to place upon others. As the result of the impossibility of each member of the Government doing all that he would like to do, he should himself be assured that the powers delegated under the regulations will be honestly and fearlessly administered. Therefore, in order to keep a check, not only upon Ministers directly - although that is an important principle - but also upon the whole of the administration behind them, it is important that this Parliament should have control over Ministers and all Government officials. In the conduct of this war we shall create something in the nature of a bureaucracy, and, therefore, I ask that a time limit be placed upon the operation of the bill. In the committee stage I shall seek to introduce what I believe to be several necessary safeguards. The. speech made- by the Prime Minister in submitting the measure, coupled with his remarks yesterday, goes far to make me ready to entrust this authority to the Executive with much les3 misgiving than I might otherwise have.
.- I support this measure, and I think that few people will realize the seriousness of the present situation, because Australia is so far removed from the war zone in Europe, lt is almost impossible for Australians to appreciate the necessity for legislation of this kind, but the Government must have the drastic and far-reaching powers sought, since it is necessary for it to act quickly in dealing with any vital issue that may develop without warning. I have no fear that the Government will misuse the powers proposed to be delegated to it. The machinery necessary to implement these powers will be very complicated and extensive, and will operate throughout the whole of the States, affecting the ramifications of industry and the private life of every citizen of the Commonwealth. Therefore, I emphasize the necessity for the Government to make a most careful selection of the persons who will comprise the boards and other authorities that will actually exercise the powers to be conferred by this legislation. There is practically no power for which this measure does not provide. It will give’ to the Government power to do anything at any time in any place, practically without restriction. It will mean the passage probably of regulations containing thousands of clauses, and this fact should make us realize the tremendous importance of the measure. I have before me a copy of the general regulations for national security recently promulgated under the Defence Act, which conferred very wide and drastic powers upon certain sections of the Public Service, in order to enable them to carry out their duties in maintaining the security of this country ; but the present bill gives very little indication of how the powers now sought will be exercised. I hope that the Government will lose no time in framing the regulations that will be necessary under this measure, so that the Parliament may know how the Government intends to exercise these powers, to what authorities the powers will be delegated, and how they will operate in the various States. It will be impossible for any central authority to take charge of the many activities for which provision will have to be made.
An assurance has been given that the interests of no section of the people will be overlooked. Very drastic powers will be conferred upon certain officials, and, no matter who they may be, their minds will, owing to war conditions, probably run in certain channels, and, unless the Government keeps a watchful eye on their operations, certain important activities may be neglected or harassed in the effort to ensure national security. I have iu mind the control of many industries that are essential to the carrying out of the defence programme, or the plan for national security, unless every precaution is taken in applying the powers provided under this bill. It would be possible to destroy many important activities that are essential to the general welfare of the community. Many members of this Parliament may be called upon for service in various capacities and although the point I wish to raise may not come under this bill, I wish to emphasize that if a member of . the House of Representatives should be called up for national war service in any capacity whatever, it would be necessary for him to seek a pair. This might not be readily available, and might not be applicable to all circumstances. I therefore suggest that the Government should seriously consider the necessity and advisableness of making provision for members of parliament who may be called to serve in the interests of national security to appoint proxies to vote for them in the House. Each such member could nominate a colleague with similar views to vote for him, and this would maintain the stability of Parliament almost as though the absent members were still in their places here. Voting by proxy is already provided for in the Parliament of Queensland, and there is no reason why, in the circumstances which now face us, it should not be provided for in this Parliament.
I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill, but as I fully recognize that drastic powers are being sought which may be passed on to subsidiary bodies, I ask the Government to give to us an assurance that the regulations under this measure will be framed at the earliest possible date, so that Parliament may have an opportunity to consider them before it disperses, and so that the public may be able to form a definite opinion on them. This should be possible before the regulations are brought into operation, because undoubtedly many of our activities and industries will be vitally affected by them.
– I should be happy if the Prime Minister, when he replies to this debate, or when an appropriate time is reached at the committee stage, will give some attention to sub-clause 7 of clause 5, providing “ nothing in this section shall authorize a the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service or any form of industrial conscription.” I am not quite sure how the Acts Interpretation Act may apply to this particular provision. The Defence Act already provides that every able-bodied man in the community shall be liable for service within the Com mon weal th.
– Nothing in the subclause to which the honorable member has referred provides power for making regulations in respect of subjects not already dealt with by legislative enactment.
– I should like some more information on this point.
– I repeat that regulations may not be made under this clause except on matters that are already the subject of legislation.
– I do not suppose that the Government would attempt to do under this measure things already provided for under the Defence Act.
– No doubt the honorable member is right in that.
– For that reason it seems to be superfluous to include this provision.
– The compulsory service provided for under the Defence Act is service within Australia. Questions have been raised as to whether people could be compelled under that act to serve in some foreign country. The sub-section- to which the honorable member has referred makes it clear that such action could not be taken under the- regulationmaking power. An Act of Parliament would have to be passed to deal with the matter.
– We may have to argue the point at greater length at the committee stage. I suggest that paragraph h of sub-clause 1 of this clause may need some amendment in view of the amendment that has been made to the Trading with the Enemy Act.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has, in the most disarming way, invited honorable members to commit political hari kari. What he has said to-night was said 25 years ago when a similar measure was placed before this Parliament. Then, as to-day, Parliament was informed that the powers sought by the Government would not, bo abused. It was only when honorable members of that day had occasion to cross swords with the Government, as it were, particularly when it attempted to impose conscription upon this countrythat they discovered how these powers could be misused. Those of us who were active in public life at that time have a vivid recollection of the happenings of those days, and we are not prepared to grant the Government even more farreaching powers than those provided at that time. For this reason, I do not propose to support this bill merely on the assurance of the Prime Minister that the powers sought in it will not be abused.
The right honorable gentleman has admitted that he is seeking a vast reservoir of power. He is doing more than that. At a time when we are supposed to be fighting against dictatorships, he is seeking to set up in Australia a dictatorship which will not only make possible tho over-riding of Parliament itself, but will also provide the power to make regulations to violate every piece of legislation on our statute-book.
– A democratically appointed dictatorship.
– I do not know that it can be so described. I know that it would be improper to confer upon a minority government the right to rule this country by giving it a regulationmaking power so wide as to permit the violation of every law on the statute-book. The people are not to be consulted on this subject. In fact, Parliament itself, which consists of the duly elected representatives of the people, is to be consulted as little as possible throughout the currency of the war.
The Prime Minister has admitted the grave risk of limiting the freedom of the people. He realizes the dangers of handing over these enormous powers to what, he describes as the rigid, official mind. “We, ourselves, are not forgetful of that danger. Wherever we’ go throughout Australia to-day, we hear complaints that Parliament is nol: doing its job and that the people are being ruled by this rigid official mind. Yet the Government is now proposing to go further than any previous Commonwealth Government has attempted to go. We were assured by the Prime Minister yesterday that we were waging war, not against the German people, but against the German Dictator and his Government, yet, if this bill is passed in its present form, we shall also be waging war, on a smaller scale, in Australia against many people who, by the accident of birth, are German. Some of these people may have been na turalized and loyal subjects of Australia for many years. Yet an open invitation is being offered to smash their businesses and to deprive them of their worldly goods merely on the say-so of any officer who may be appointed under the regulation-making power under this bill. But the danger is not confined to enemy subjects. Many Australian people may be deprived of their worldly goods, and their whole future may be placed iu jeopardy, merely because some official may have a set against them. That kind of thing should not be encouraged in this country. I hold the view that Parliament should be consulted in respect of all these regulations.
We are being asked, among other things, to grant power to certain officials to search premises without a warrant. We have vivid recollections of what was done in this way under the War Precautions Act passed just after the outbreak of the last war. Trade union premises, and even government offices in Queensland, were raided at that time by an over-zealous official who acted under instructions from the present AttorneyGeneral
– What for?
– Simply because a Labour government was in office and its members were opposed to the conscription of the manhood of Australia. It was for that reason that the then Attorney-General ordered the raiding of certain government offices. In these circumstances, it is not unnatural that we should hesitate to agree to the granting of the wide powers sought under this bill. I am not ready to permit the searching of premises unless some very stringent safeguards are provided.
I inquired from the Prime Minister the exact meaning of sub-clause 3 of clause 5 of the bill -
The regulations may provide for empowering such persons or classes of persons as are prescribed and thereto authorized in pursuance of the regulations to make orders, rules or by-laws for any of the purposes for which regulations arc authorized by this act to be made, and orders, rules and by-laws so made shall not be deemed to be statutory rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1003-1934.
As I see it, that sub-clause will permit a Minister to delegate his authority to some other person. When we asked the Prime Minister exactly what was meant by that provision,- he tried to get out of it very nicely by saying that it was intended to deal with price-fixing and the like. That reply is not satisfactory to me.
– The Minister will have the right of veto.
– That is all he will have. We have no assurance whatever that this delegated authority will be given only to people competent to use such extraordinary power. In my opinion, the powers sought to be provided under this bill should not be delegated to other authorities, but should be exercised only by the Executive, which should itself take full responsibility for any enterprises it puts in hand. This sub-clause is not confined to price-fixing powers. That suggestion was put to the Opposition merely because the Government knows that we are totally opposed to the exploitation of the public, and have advocated that pricefixing . tribunals should be set up. The Prime Minister was shrewd enough to realize that a reply of this nature would be agreeable to us, but he has not explained why such great powers should be vested in private individuals.
– The honorable gentleman’s own leader suggested the price fixing powers.
– That is true, and it was readily gobbled up by the Prime Minister. It was misleading no matter who said it, because the authority exists to appoint officers to carry out any conceivable powers under this legislation.
– The regulations show how that power is exercised.
– That is so.
– The Prime Minister stated that there was power in sub-clause 3 of clause5.
– Yes, but not with the enthusiasm that be displayed when he gobbled up the suggestion made-in an interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin).
Sub-clause 7 of clause 5 reads -
Nothing in this section shall authorize -
the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service or any form of industrial conscription ;
That provision concedes nothing to the Opposition. It is no safeguard of the liberty of the subject, because -power is not needed in this legislation to enforce conscription in Australia. If it is the intention of the Government to introduce industrial conscription it can do so under the Supply and Development Act, which was recently passed by this Parliament. Therefore, the provision which allegedly safeguards the liberty of the subject, so far as military or industrial conscription is concerned, is not only redundant, but also meaningless.
– Has the honorable gentleman forgotten the amendment to the Supply and Development Bill in respect of regulation-making power?
– No. Paragraph b of clause 5(7) prohibits any regulation making provision for -
Trial by court martial of persons not subject to naval, military or air force law.
That is very nice. The Prime Minister is not going to treat the civil populace as he would members of the three fortes. Civilians are not to be the subject of courts martial. But I direct the attention of the House to clause 8 which rends-
If. with respect to any proceedings (whether instituted before or after the commencement of this act), the court before which the proceedings are taken is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth, or any territory of the Commonwealth so to’ do, the court -
So the public will be excluded from. the courts. The clause proceeds -
The civil population is to be saved from the court martial, but it is to be given what is worse - star chamber trials.
– Does the honorable gentleman object to the court having that right? The court is a judicial tribunal.
– Yes. My objection is based on what happened in the last war, particularly when men were called up prior to the conscription vote being taken. The attitude of the magistrates and the judges at that time was such that I have no respect for- their judgment as to whether the court should be cleared or not. During the last war we got rough justice in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, from the people who were charged with the administration of justice because they were hopelessly biased and led away by the circumstances. They conceived that their obligation in the administration of justice was to force as many people as possible into the ranks.
– Yes. Remembering the lack of proper administration of justice in those days under the War Precautions Act, I am not prepared in similar circumstances to give the right to any court to’ try any man, either summarily or on indictment, under the conditions made possible by clause 8.
Mr.Blackburn. - This legislation is an improvement on the War Precautions Act, because there was no such provision in that act as that to which the honorable member has directed our attention in this bill.
– Even so, I do not intend to give to any authority the right to say whether the court shall be cleared. The cases that will be heard will cover a vast range. The Ministry cannot contemplate that all the cases that are brought before the court shall be cases which, in the national interest, should not be disclosed. Every conceivable class of case during the period which faces us will be before the court, and I propose to give no one the right to establish star chamber justice. By taking away the right to inflict military court martial on ordinary citizens, the Ministry is doing nothing to safeguard the interests of the public, because it substitutes for the court martial a method of administration of justice which is abhorrent.
I turn to clause 13. Sub-clause 1 provides that -
Any person who is found committing an offence against this act, or who is suspected of having committed, or being about to commit, such an offence, may be arrested without warrant . . . and sub-clause 2a -
If no charge is laid against the suspected person within a reasonable time, he shall be released from detention.
What is meant by “reasonable time”? First of all we have inflicted upon the people a star chamber method of trial, and then we are to go further and authorize men, some of whom, possibly, should not be invested with any such authority, to arrest and charge persons in the manner set out in the clause. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has been interjecting frequently. I should like him to interject again and explain to the House just what is meant by “ reasonable time “.
– Willingly. The object of sub-clause 2a, I should say, is to enable a person to go before a judge and get a writ of habeas corpus if a man has not been brought to trial within what may be considered by him to be a reasonable time. It would bo for the court to determine whether the time was reasonable or not.
– What the honorable gentleman says sounds all right, but I direct his notice to the wording of the sub-clause -
If a person suspected of having committed, or being about to commit, an offence against this act is arrested under the provisions of this suction, a report of the fact and the circumstances shall forthwith be made to the Attorney-General or to a person appointed in that behalf by the Attorney-General, and -
if no charge is laid against the suspected person within a reasonable time,he shall be released from detention.
I direct notice also to the fact that there is no provision for action for unlawful arrest. The honorable gentleman’s interpretation of what this means, I think, has no relation to the actual provisions of this bill.
Mr.Spender. - The honorable member asked me for my interpretation and I gave it to him.
– That is so, but it is conceivable that once a person is appointed by an officer under this bill, and once that officer has sought the authority of the A ttorney-General toproceed against the arrested man, there might be interminable delay between the, time ofhis arrest and the time of his being brought to trial. I still want to know what interpretation the Government places on the words “ reasonable time “. There should be a definite limitation on- the length of time which may elapse between arrest and trial.
My last objection to this legislation is directed against clause 18, which provides -
A regulation made under this act shall, subject to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937, have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act or any instrument having effect by. virtue of any enactment other than this act.
That clause empowers the Government to frame regulations which would have the effect of violating any legislation enacted by this Parliament without the ordinary proceeding of amendment of that legislation by Parliament itself. Not only does this Government seek power to dispense with the use of Parliament for the period of the war as far as possible in order to avoid the necessity for legislating as circumstances from time to time require, but it also seeks in this clause power to frame regulations which will violate any act of the Commonwealth Parliament at present on the statute-book which the Government desires to violate without tho necessity for bringing the proposed violation before Parliament for approval. In these circumstances the Government is not only asking for the vast reservoir of power to which the Prime Minister referred; it is virtually asking for a dictatorship worse than we have had in recent months as the result of the exercise of the power of regulation making, because the powers that it is seeking are more far-reaching than honorable gentlemen who are supporting this legislation should be prepared to grant to the Government. It is true that this legislation is a re-enactment of the War Precautions Act of 25 years ago, but I point out that nobody suffered from that legislation more than did the working class. All tho assurances of the Prime Minister that he does not intend to do this or that, that he does not propose to muzzle the Opposition or to use unreasonably the powers under this bill can be forgotten because what counts are the powers themselves, not what the Prime Minister says is the intention of the Government. Two things that have to be considered are, first, what is in the bill and, secondly, who is to administer it. Even the best of legislation can be spoilt by the operation of what the Prime Minister described as the rigid official mind. The best of legislation can be ruined by the administration of any government. Promises given at a time like this must be taken at their true worth, and I am not ready to sacrifice in such a period as now, the rights of Parliament to legislate to meet the needs of the day. Nor am I prepared to see my constituency or the constituency of any other honorable gentleman, deprived of the right to advance grievances in the proper way. I shall not sacrifice the principle of parliamentary government to government by regulation. The Opposition has already indicated its willingness to lend a helping hand, but it will not, under the stress of war, sacrifice the principles of self-government and give to the Ministry the rights of dictatorship when we are fighting overseas against a dictatorship.
– Listening to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) one could only come to the conclusion that there is very little in the bill to which he does not object. I think I am safe in saying that the honorable gentleman does not want a measure of this kind passed at all, and that if he could have ‘his way no such legislation would be placed on the statute-book during the period of this war. We know from our experience of the last war that it is absolutely necessary for this Parliament to delegate a great part of its constitutional powers, which are made constitutional largely by dicta of the High Court, to the Executive for the time being. The honorable member for Dalley really approached this measure from the curious and almost fantastic angle that we are not actually at war. If the honorable gentleman could throw his mind out of the peaceful environment of Canberra to the larger world within the Commonwealth, without even considering the actual war theatres, he would realize that his attitude i? utterly impracticable and indefensible. His leader (Mr. Curtin) really endorsed this view to-night, because he did not attempt in any way to defend the logic of the honorable member for Dalley. He admitted in his responsible position as Leader of the Opposition that the delegation to the Executive of an enormous reservoir of the power usually reposed in this Parliament was absolutely necessary. His only actual objection to the bill was that there should be some time limit imposed upon it, other than the indefinite provision in the concluding clause that the act shall continue in operation for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter.
– He had other, objections.
– No; that was the only substantial objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition. Other points which he made were related to it. He mentioned, it is true, the sweeping nature of the powers embodied in this legislation, but he did not object to that. He said that those powers would be properly vested in the Executive if Parliament were kept in almost continuous session so as to exercise proper surveillance over them. That, I submit, is a correct interpretation of the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. It appears, therefore, that the honorable member for Dalley in bis attack on this bill to-night cut right across the view taken by his leader. Of course he is master of his own thoughts and actions in this time of crisis, but I suggest that it would be well for him to study the view expressed by his leader before committing himself to an attitude from which he may have to recede very soon.
I have examined the bill very closely and can see in it nothing that the Government has not the right to ask this Parliament to concede. Knowing what war means, the people of Australia have a very great fear of the War Precautions Act, but they know that the Commonwealth must have on its statute-book measures similar to the legislation enacted during the last war for the purpose of enabling the Executive to function effectively for the duration of the hostilities. I well remember the operation of t,he
War Precautions Act. Although that legislation was irksome in some respects, it did not leave any permanent sears on the feelings of the people of this country. As soon as the war was over, whatever irritations had been caused by it were forgotten by the great majority of the people.
– .Some people were sent to gaol under that act.
– Most of those who were put in gaol during the war deserved their punishment. I challenge any member to cite a case in which any man was wrongfully imprisoned, and had to wait until the end of the war before justice was done.
– What about members of the Industrial Workers of the World?
– Cases involving members of the Industrial Workers of the World were not related to the war. They were civil and political matters, and as such were dealt with by the civil courts.
We could easily be sidetracked from the main issue of this bill, but I know it is not the desire of honorable members on either side to do that. We all recognize that a war is raging. We all hope that this great tragedy will soon pass, and that the condition of world affairs which was satisfactory to us as a democracy and to our associated democracies will return. But we must be honest enough to ad til it that anything may happen. We cannot see very far ahead. That is why anybody who at this early stage predicts anything concerning the progress of the war does so with a great amount of risk. We hope for the best, but we fear the worst.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ a great amount of risk”?
– I hope that the honorable member for West Sydney does not. misunderstand me. We know it is quite unsafe to take an optimistic view of the war at this early stage. Events may develop in such a way as to falsify bur optimism. What may appear to be of very small consequence to us now may, to-morrow, next week, or next month, De a matter of grave importance. I suggest, therefore, that we have to take risks in connexion with his legislation. It is an emergency measure, but’ it is not new to Australia.
The innovations mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and by other honorable members of this House, are not such as to frighten this Parliament, or a democratic people determined to do their best to win the war. There is only one reservation which I should like to make. I realize that the fullest amount of power to enable the Government to prosecute this war efficiently must be given without grudge. We must not, from political motives, hold anything back. The first objective should be to arm the Government with every possible power in order to enable it to carry out’ the will of the people of Australia. That will is to do out utmost to win this war on behalf of ourselves and our allies. We should not, therefore, judge this legislation before it has been adequately tried, and although it may contain provisions which some honorable members consider m1 4. be dangerous from a political point of view, we should be willing to take the risk. If we find that our fears are justified, and that the Government has taken some power which was not necessary, or that it has used power in a manner detrimental to the welfare of any section of the people and opposed to the democratic traditions of this country, members of this Parliament can use their powers as elected representatives of the’ people to bring the Government to book.
This bring3 me to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the period for which this legislation shall operate. I repeat that, to my mind, this is the only objection that could possibly be raised to this bill. Parliament is surrendering, for the duration of the war, almost all of its powers, other than its supervision of the Government. We know that once Parliament goes into recess, then, subject to certain constitutional limitations, it is entirely at the discretion of the Government as to when honorable members will be called together again. It is not the will of the people that the Government should be handicapped by constant sittings of the Parliament which would enable honorable members, particularly those who seek to introduce politics into the conduct of a war, to indulge in criticism of this or that phase of the Government’s war administration. We know that in Great Britain and other countries - I am not referring to totalitarian countries, but to nations with which we are familiar - that was not the way in which the last war was conducted, and it is not the way in which this war can be brought to a successful issue. The main objective now is the speediest possible victory for the Allies. Beyond securing from the Government some assurance that Parliament will be called together and kept in session for reasonable periods, I do not think that we can go any further than the bill proposes.
I have thought carefully about what the Leader of the Opposition said in connexion with imposing a time limit on this legislation. In my opinion it is a quite reasonable proposition to make to the Government. Having regard to the risks which we run - we are subordinating all risks to-night to the major risk of losing this war - I cannot see- that there is any real case against the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, which seems to me to be the only possible safeguard that we can insist upon at this stage. We cannot instruct the Government to keep Parliament in session for two or three days a week for the duration of the war, because there might be long periods when there would be nothing for Parliament to do but criticize. We must leave it to the discretion of the Government. If the Ministry should show a tendency to adopt a dictatorial attitude, as was suggested by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) when he described it as a democratic dictatorship, there will be methods and measures available to the elected representatives of the people to bring the Government up with a round turn. In this country we have not yet reached the stage at which any government can defy the weight of united public opinion.
– That may be so when [here is freedom of expression.
– The Opposition will be able to maintain all its rights and privileges for the duration of this war, as was the case during the last war.
– Once this bill is passed, things will be different,
– Surely the Opposition will not contend that it was deprived of its constitutional rights and privileges during the last war. During that period, certain changes of government took place. At one stage the Opposition was so successful as completely to reverse the policy which the Government, had nearly implemented. Solely by it; power to organize the weight of public opinion, the Opposition prevented the Government from introducing conscription. I ts success on that occasion proves conclusively the power of the Opposition should any attempt be made to interfere with the rights and privileges of -the people. That power can be exercised under this legislation.
– The honorable member must not forget the obstacles that were placed in the way.
– I remember them well. This bill is practically a repetition of the War Precautions Act which was in operation during the last war, and, therefore, the Opposition has no need to fear that conditions will be worse than they were then. The constitutional powers which the Government seeks to obtain under this legislation will be properly exercised, because public opinion in Australia, even when subject to the worst war conditions of which we have had experience, will not tolerate any abuse of the democratic standards under which we have lived. Unless we face conditions which amount to an invasion of the country’s sovereignty by a foreign power, I do not think that the Opposition need have any fear that its members and supporters will be prevented- at- any time from being vocal, or from regimenting the party’s political following in any way that it thinks fit. Nevertheless, in the light of our experience during the last war, I do say that there is no necessity, at this stage, for the Government to adopt an extreme attitude, and insist that, however long the war lasts, this measure must remain in operation for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter, without any .review by Parliament. Government spokesmen may say that that is a ridiculous view, because Parliament has, at all times, the right to amend legislation that has been placed on the statute-book, but, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the tendency will be for the Government to become more and more engrossed in the conduct of the Avar, and not to wish to call Parliament together frequently. Although under the constitution, the Parliament will have to assemble at least once a year ; it is possible that the Government will be tempted to go on for the greater part of each year without calling members together. I suggest that the people would be more satisfied if ‘they knew that these powers were being sought for a limited period ‘only, certainly not more - than twelve months. Should the Avar last more than a year, the Government would have to approach the Parliament to re-enact- this legislation, and it would then be possible to remove any objectionable provisions. Much as they may dislike this legislation, most sections of the community, recognizing the nature of the calamity which has befallen us, will be prepared to accept it for the duration of the Avar. But if we indicated that it will not remain in operation for more than twelve months without a review by Parliament, all fear that the people as a whole, or any section of them, would have to submit to a form of official dictatorship and be deprived of their rights and privileges for perhaps three or four years would be removed. I suggest that, before it is too late, the Government should give consideration to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition and, if practicable, amend the last clause so as to limit the operation of the bill to a period of not more than twelve months. If that be done,, I believe that all sections of the House will be satisfied. If it be not done,
I shall support any motion to impose such a limitation. .
– The essential distinction between what are called the totalitarian states and the representative democracies is that, in the former, the executive power and the legislative power are combined in the one hand, whereas in representative democracies the legislative and executive powers are not, so concentrated. The Constitution of the United States of America, for instance, is planned upon the theory that freedom can only be achieved by tlie .separation of the legislative and the executive powers. That country has carried on a number of wars without much inconvenience under this system of division of powers. In fact, the first of the modern wars - the Great Civil War of 1861-65 - was conducted under this system. The offence which a measure like this commits against .the people of Australia is that it surrenders the principle of democracy for which we are supposed to -be fighting, and adopts our enemy’s principle of totalitarianism. In Dante’s vision of Malebolge he saw a serpent fighting with a man. In the course of the struggle, the man and the serpent changed places; the mau crawled like a serpent, whereas the serpent raised itself up like a man. There may be some danger that our enemy will become free while we become unfree or, perhaps, that both we and our enemy will become unfree. In the struggle for freedom we may lose freedom ; our efforts to preserve life may cause us to lose the things that make life worth living. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) objects to the delegation of power to the Executive. We know that the details of legislation can with advantage be delegated to the Executive. Possibly, more and more of such delegation could be made; but what we object to is the abdication of power by Parliament. We object to Parliament saying to the Executive, “ As soon as the back of Parliament is turned, you can exercise complete power in any way that you like. You will be free to do as you please, except for the express prohibitions imposed by the Constitution. You will be free to override and repeal legislation that has already been passed, so long as you keep the doors of Parliament closed “. That, I suggest, is as much an abdication of the powers of Parliament as occurred in the days of Henry VIII., when the king was empowered to make any laws that he liked. We are asked now expressly to authorize the Government to pass any laws that it likes and to disregard existing legislation. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) spoke about habeas corpus. There is nothing in this legislation to prevent the rights of habeas corpus from being taken away. Indeed, those rights were disregarded under the War Precautions Act during the last war. They may be taken away generally, for this legislation expressly gives the power to disregard the existing legislation of this country; it empowers the Minister to do, as the Attorney-General said that he did during the late war - make laws at the rate of 30 every half hour, or as fast as he could sign his name with a fountain pen. All of those powers can be exercised while Parliament is closed; and there is no compulsion to call Parliament together more frequently than once a year. As soon as Parliament is closed, and almost before the signature of the Governor-General is dry, the Government will be free to do as it likes. We do not. object to the delegation of power as such, because, generally, power is delegated to a subordinate who can be controlled. However, we are not asked to do that, but to surrender power, to abdicate, and to go to our homes, leaving the Ministry to make whatever laws it thinks fit. We are asked to concentrate executive powers and legislative powers in the same hand. It is useless to talk about good wishes and good intentions on the part of any Minister. Similar legislation to this was passed in 1914 when the party to which I belong was in power. The leaders of the party asked for such powers, and the members of the party had more respect for their leaders than they have for the leaders of any one else. There were some notable exceptions, among them being the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) who refused to identify himself with that legislation. Apart from those few exceptions, however, members of the party were willing to vest extraordinary powers in the leaders of their own party. While they continued to be leaders, they did things for which the Labour party did not stand. A study of the index will reveal the nature of some of the things that were done. Special tribunals, which superseded the ordinary tribunals established for the purpose, were set up to deal with industrial disputes; power was taken to deregister trade unions and to override awards. All these things were done under the War Precautions Act. Under that legislation the liberties of the people were destroyed. . Some judicial authorities even went so far as to saythat men could be sent overseas against their wills merely by the issue of a regulation under the War Precautions Act. The High Court itself said, “We have no power to criticize or to review any regulation that the Executive may make; the Executive is empowered to do anything that it may think necessary or convenient for the effectual carrying on of the war. Who are we to judge as to whether or not the Executive rightly thinks that this is necessary ? “ Consequently, you have not the check of the judiciary and you have not the check of Parliament. The whole of the power of this country which is distributed by the Constitution is, in war time, under legislation such as this, concentrated in the hands of the Executive. The scheme underlying this legislation may be summed up in two passages that I shall read from the measure. The first is -
The second passage is in clause 18, and reads -
A regulation made under this Act shall . . have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act . . .
What that means is perfectly clear; it means that the Government will have the power, by regulation, to do anything that it thinks is necessary for the more effectual carrying on of the war. It could say that, to its mind, anything was necessary for carrying on the war. It could provide for all sorts of trifles. It could provide that mining companies should not make calls upon their shareholders, and that a uniform could not be dyed. All sorts of things could be done. It could disregard acts of parliament, I remind honorable members that it was only an accident which saved us from a regulation under the War Precautions Act disfranchising hosts of people in this country. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), as Prime Minister at that time, attempted to obtain the support of the Executive Council for a regulation which disfranchised all of those persons who had not answered the call-up in 1916. All sorts of things were threatened, all sorts of things were done. Those who have fresh in their memory the things that were done in the years 1914 to 1918 cannot regard this legislation coolly and calmly. It will be used to deprive the people of their liberties. It has been said that we must have respect for the good intentions of the Prime Minister and other Ministers. I admire the Prime Minister and other Ministers, with whom [ have a great deal of personal friendship. I believe that their present intentions are generous and liberal. But I am not prepared to vote on the assumption that they are going to have those intentions for the duration of the war. I know how war changes the opinions of people. I know the nervous tension to which the community and Ministers will be subjected, and I am not prepared to accept as the last word the statement of present generous intentions. Let me take the very regulations that have been enacted, which deny the liberties of the people. Here is one that I quoted the other night - part of regulation 44 of these National Security (General) Regulations -
A Minister may give directions prohibiting the holding of any meeting as to which he is satisfied that the holding thereof would bc likely to cause a disturbance of public order or promote disaffection.
That is different from saying that the Minister ought to have the power to prosecute a man who may disturb public order or promote disaffection. -Why vest the Minister with the power to say, “ I constitute myself the judge as to whether or not you are a person who is likely to commit an offence, and as I think that you are I am not going to allow you to speak “ ? .But there is worse behind it than even the caprice of the Minister. By regulation S8 he may delegate the power, in any particular State or territory, to any person, who is under no responsibility to either this House or the community. I take these regulations as the first indication of the lengths to which this Government is prepared to go, and I say, without any reflection upon Ministers, that there is no Ministry to which T would entrust these powers. I would noi entrust them to a Ministry led by my honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because I believe that under the strain of war, under the pressure of public opinion, under the stress of nervous tension to which everybody will be subjected, men who are vested with absolute power will abuse that power. No man can be vested with absolute power without having the knowledge that sooner or later he will abuse that power. No man can be trusted always to be fair, liberal, generous and just. It is no reflection upon the Prime Minister and no derogation from the respect in which we hold him, to say that he cannot be trusted with absolute power, that fetters must be imposed on his discretion. I say that legislation, of this kind cannot command the support of this party. The members of this party were wrong in voting for such legislation in 1-914; but with the experience of the five years that followed, they would be still more wrong in supporting it now; they would be helping to destroy the liberties and the conditions of the classes whom they represent; they would be helping to bring this free country down to the level of our unfree enemies.
Much of this legislation can be considered ‘more effectively in committee. But I should like to say something about a point at issue between the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender). The honorable member for Dalley says, “It is true that you are going to prevent civilians from being dealt with by court martial. The War Precautions Act provided that enemy aliens could be courtmartialled, and that in time of emergency everybody could be so dealt with. It is true that the bill says (hat persons who are not subject to military law - civilians - shall not be dealt with by court martial “. He then went on very properly to say, “ But you are going to have them dealt with by a closed court. The War Precautions Act did not make that provision Those who had experience of the agitation in this country during the war, as I had ; those who had experience of editing newspapers, as I had; those who defended prisoners charged with offences, as I did, will realize that the only thing which kept the courts from losing their heads was the fact that the magistrate sat in open court, the public knew what was going on, and what went on was reported. The only guarantee that we have in our British system’ that the courts will behave themselves is that the courts sit in public. Hallam has said that the two guarantees of liberty which Englishmen have are, first, that the courts sit in public and, therefore, the public knows the way in which they administer the law - they feel that they cannot be arbitrary, they cannot disregard the law, because of the fact that every one can see what they are doing; and secondly, that every citizen can have his grievances brought before Parliament and there discussed. I have appeared before courts martial, and if I had to choose between a court martial and a magistrate’s court sitting with closed doors, I would select the court martial. My experience is that the only objection to a court martial is that it is a closed court. But it proceeds with the utmost care arid deliberation. A case which a magistrate would dispose of in five, ten, or fifteen minutes, would occupy a court martial for half a day. Every step has to be taken with meticulous care, every ingredient of a man’s offence must be proved against him, and every opportunity must be given to him to say for himself, or to have said for him, anything that- he believes is in his favour. Were I to ‘ reject a court martial and choose trial by a police magistrate who could prevent the case from being reported, I should only fall out of the frying pan into the fire. Apart from that, J. would never consent to any proposal which provided for the closing of courts. L am surprised to hear a distinguished member of the New South Wales bar say that a judge should have the right to close a court and determine what report of the proceedings should be issued.
– Suppose that the charge were one of sabotage or espionage, there might be given in evidence something very material which ought to be kept secret and not disclosed to the general public.
– I cannot see that, there is anything which can override the right of the public and of the man charged to have an open .trial. Casement was given an open trial. Men charged with high treason, men charged with the greatest of offences, are guaranteed an open trial, a trial by jury. They are guaranteed that they will be given a copy of the charge laid against them and that they will be defended at the expense of the State. I cannot conceive how the honorable gentleman can admit, as he must, that in major offences a man is on-titled to an open trial, and in minor offences it may be against the public interest to have an open trial.
– I go so far as to say that in 90 per cent, of cases the trial should be held publicly; but there may be a particular case.
– I should not say that. I should say that the most important thing is that the people of this country shall believe that in this struggle they are preserving as much of their freedom, as much of their constitutional rights, as can possibly be preserved for them ; that those rights are not being taken from them; that they are not losing those rights in the struggle which this nation is waging. It is those rights which make their country dear to them, not. the fact that they live in this portion of the earth, not the fact that they are members of this little platoon, but that they live among a people who have certain traditions which they have acquired and developed through long centuries of struggle. These things are valuable, and cannot be risked. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The3e rights must be defended again and again, every day. In the words of Tom Payne, “ The manna of liberty must be gathered afresh every day, otherwise it stinketh-“. The greatest. . wrong which could be done to the people of Australia, the greatest help which could be given to our dictatorial enemies, would be to reduce this country to the same level as theirs, to destroy the freedom of the people, to take away from the people their right to be governed through their elected representatives and their right to a free trial by their peers. The greatest injury which could be done to the people of this country would be to carry and enforce legislation of this kind,
.- The spirited address to which we have just had the pleasure of listening, following that recently delivered by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), makes one realize that the urge for liberty is not yet dead in all the people of this Commonwealth. This bill seems sadly familiar to those of long memory. It is designed, if we take it on its face value, to make provision for the safety and defence of the Commonwealth and its territories during the present state of war. We find that one of its clauses provides for national security and for the setting up of machinery for the effectual prosecution of the war. It is not wholly for that purpose. This declared purpose will proceed to fulfilment regardless of whether this measure is or is not passedThis bill is designed for another purpose, and that is to undermine the authority of representative government and to suspend the power of the parliament of this nation. That is as clear from the subtle and plausible utterances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as it would be from a truculent address of the kind which the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) would be too happy’ to deliver if he were in a position so to do. I congratulate the Government upon one fact at least, and that is that it has abandoned the odious title of “ War Precautions Act “ of unhallowed memory, an act which, having operated as an instrument of oppression for over four years, was, in the spirit in which it was created and maintained, repealed only to be re-enacted now because the taste of absolution on the palate of those disposed to exercise despotic power makes ,them anxious to continue to exercise such power. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Therefore, a measure coming to us under a different title does not become by virtue of that fact only a different measure in spirit or in substance. Let us understand the actual position. It is not so much a matter of power being delegated to the Executive under this bill as it is that the power of government is to be delegated through the Executive to the military machine. That is the real point. Unfortunately that is one of the consequences which flow from the test of military strength. It proves the hopelessness of settling anything by force. I remember, equally with the plausible words uttered by the Prime Minister this evening, the language employed by the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, once the member for Balaclava, and referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), when he was commissioned with the duty of supporting legislation of this character. He did his utmost to honour basic justice in word, but it was dishonoured in application and in principle. The right honorable the Prime Minister approaches this subject with an immature mind in the matter of crises of this character. There is in his nature a streak of radicalism ; but it has never come to fruition and it never will in the company which he keeps and in the masters whom he serves. I believe that it is his desire to maintain the principles and institutions for which it is publicly stated the present war is to be waged. He sincerely means what he says, but he does not realize that authority will pass from his hands into the hands of others. I do not hope that even if this Parliament sits daily it will do more than this one service : it will enable honorable members, at least so long as a residue of liberty remains, to express and to have recorded the opinions which they hold. That is something, and for that reason I support the suggestion that Parliament should remain in session or at least should be summoned frequently. I know from bitter and long experience which has been endorsed by the march of years that in the contingency with which we are now grappling governmental policy will be exercised not by the proper authority, but merely by the military authority - I almost said a military dictatorship. The truth is that the Government according to theory does not function in such circumstances, and under a measure such as this which is soon to become law it proceeds not on the basis of reason but on the basis of expediency which is better known as military necessity. That is why I repeat that nothingis settled, because the only things which are proved are those which are believed by those who are not always the best judges. Military victory may achieve freedom in name, and the apparent temporary safety at too big a price. If the Prime Minister follows the precedent set in the last war he should do as a predecessor did on one occasion ; dedicate this nation to the prosecution of tho war even to the last man and the last shilling, and should pack his bag and go abroad to secure a highly paid position in another part of this Commonwealth of Nations. I acquit the present Prime Minister of any intention to do that, but in order to preserve uniformity, apparently that is what he should do.
I know from experience that there is nothing which, may not be done constitutionally in the name of the defence of this country. The constitutional boundary line is broken down; it disappears immediately war is declared. Even the courts of the land - I say it deliberately - are liable to be shaken to their foundations, and a distorted view of the law taken by otherwise conscientious men because the military spirit pervades all places, including the highest tribunals of the land. It was for that reason that, when it came to the question of fixing the price of bread, constitutional difficulties vanished into thin air and the High Court - declared it to be easy in the name of defence and for war purposes ; but such a thing could not be considered for the maintenance of the lives of the destitute in times of peace. I do not propose to exhaust my strength and nervous energy by continuous and fierce opposition to this and other proposed measures of law. I hope, in becoming language, to register my inflexible opposition to what I think ought to be opposed though perhaps not in a measure as strong, continuous and pertinacious as it was when 1 was a much, younger man between 1914 and 1918. I recognize in this measure, which we are now asked to adopt as the law of the land, nothing more or less than a polite acquiescence in the dictatorial principles we are asked to fight a war to overthrow. We are invited to set up a dictatorship in Australia in order to help to overthrow another dictatorship. I am heartily in sympathy with the object of overthrowing a dictatorship whenever it comes within our power and within our duty so to do; but I am not favorable to the adoption iu a free country of any measure for the overthrow of dictatorships which set up in the name of democracy a new dictatorship.
It is said that a measure such as this is the only orderly way in which we can deal with a supreme crisis.
What does that amount to? It amounts to a declaration that the exercise of democratic government is a fair-weather business; that it is a principle to be mouthed in time of peace when everything is proceeding in an orderly way, and there are no stupendous national problems to be solved; but when it is put to the test, when the safety of the nation is involved, it is to be immediately abandoned in favour of those very things which we are attempting to destroy. At such a time as that, we are told, we must, in effect, embrace totalitarianism. 1 most emphatically deny that doctrine.
I do not propose at this stage to examine the b’1! in detail. Reference has already been made to some of its outstanding features, including clause 5, which is the clause that undermines the authority of this Parliament. The plausible suggestion in another clause that the imposition of any form of compulsory military, naval or air force service is not to be envisaged in the bill means nothing more than that the particular provision does not achieve that purpose. But this bill is not a safeguard against conscription, and the words in the clause referred to are almost meaningless. They deceive no one, certainly _not the critical-minded members of the Opposition. We realize that, notwithstanding this clause, the Government has ample power, so long as it controls a majority in Parliament, to introduce conscription for service in this country or elsewhere. It is only necessary to pa3s a short act of Parliament for overseas service. Compulsory military training may be reintroduced even without the passage of an act of Parliament. It may be done simply by proclamation.
I dissent altogether from the view that court proceedings may properly, under this measure, be carried on in secret under the pretence, apparently, that they may involve the discussion of matters which, in the public interest, should not become the subject of public comment, or even of public knowledge. My answer is that those greatminded men who broke down the starchamber set up the system of jurisprudence, at least theoretically, sound and as sacred almost as religious tradition itself, something which ought to be more precious to the people of this country than the safety of their lives. What has given rise to the excessive use of power in the dictatorships? Out of what has grown this meglomania which we now deplore and which our troops, it is said, are to fight ? What has caused its growth and development? It had a beginning like everything else. It had its origin in the surrender by the people of power to a junta; first to an executive, afterwards to an individual, and then to individuals meeting in secret and working out their decrees, and imposing their will by force of arms on a suffering people. That is the process by which dictatorship is reached in its very worst form, and we are now being asked to oppose it by going half way along the road towards it. The truth is that when the testing time comes, when parliamentary institutions and representative government are put on trial, we find that, in spite of the experience of four years of war, and 25 years’ experience subsequently of theoretical loyalty to the principles of democracy, we are no further forward than we were in 1914. We might have put on the table of this House the very measure that was passed in that year for all the alterations that have been made in the script of the document. We might have used the very same measure which, with all our ignorance of what war meant, and of the judgment that history would pass on it, we put through this Parliament 25 years ago. Indeed, I have no doubt that the expert parliamentary draughtsman who drew this bill found himself greatly aided by the fact that he was merely required to reproduce the same measure, almost to the crossing of a “t” and the dotting of an “i” which, as a junior, he had assisted to prepare for Parliament so many years ago.
I arn content to have made my protest, lt is not necessary for me to record my opposition to the dictatorial form of government, or to the totalitarian State. I am passionately opposed to the persecution of minorities. I am opposed to the regimenting of human intelligence. I am opposed to the suppression of the free right of the working class to organize and meet for the purposes of discussing their grievances and implementing their own form of government. I am opposed to everything for which dictatorship stands. But having said so much, and, indeed, for those reasons I register my opposition to the passage of this bill and will vote against it.
Sitting suspended from 11.40 p.m. to 12.16 a.m.
Friday, S September 1959
– In view of the excellent speeches made by the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Batman (Mr. Brennan), who dealt with the history of legislation of this character exacted in this Parliament 25 years ago, little remains to be said on this measure. Yesterday, however, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) emphasized that he did not wish to have a muzzled Opposition, a nd added that he did not wan’t us to feel that whilst we had won the war we had Jost the things for which’ we had been fighting. Those are very fine sentiments, but we must bear in mind that this legislation will be administered by persons of all classes to whom the Government will be obliged to delegate many of the powers which it is now seeking. Thus we have no guarantee that the fine sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister will invariably characterize the administration of this legislation which will deprive Parliament of the control of legislative machinery. This measure gives the widest powers possible to the Government, and, furthermore, the Government will be obliged to delegate certain of these powers to all kinds of officials. Therefore, there is every danger of a recurrence of the conditions which existed in the last war, in which case, as has been stated by the honorable member for Batman, the very things which we are trying to safeguard on behalf of the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations - freedom and liberty - will be jeopardized while this legislation remains operative. Parliament should be responsible for the government of the country. The honorable member for Bourke emphasized the scope covered by war precautions regulations during the last war. Similar regulations, which have been issued since Parliament re-assembled this week, cover 46 printed pages, and these give some indication of what wc might expect under legislation of this type. I venture to suggest that the regulations framed under this measure will be still more voluminous. The Prime Minister admitted that under this measure the Government seeks the widest powers possible, and endeavoured to assure us that these powers would not be abused. However, we cannot forget how the powers granted to the Government during the last war were abused by many officials charged with the administration of legislation of this kind. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that this measure should remain in force, in the first instance, for a period of twelve months i3 very reasonable. Perhaps it might not be necessary to prescribe a longer period. Indeed, all of us hope that the war will be over within twelve months. At all events, the point was well taken by the Leader of the Opposition that if this legislation be limited, in the first instance, to twelve months, the Government and its officials will be influenced to administer it more carefully than would otherwise be the case, and, furthermore, Parliament could rest assured that the legislation would come up for review in good time. By accepting this suggestion, the Government would allay the fears of the Opposition that the powers conferred by this legislation will be abused. By virtue of these powers the Government will be absolutely supreme ; it will be enabled to ignore Parliament. Indeed, as has been pointed out by some honorable members on this side, it will be enabled, should it think fit, to exceed its constitutional powers. It is said that Parliament will have the right to review regulations, but we know what has happened in that respect in the past in connexion with regulations of much lesser importance. I refer now to regulations in respect of the Northern Territory. Whilst the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) can exercise a vote in this House only in respect of the disallowance of regulations pertaining to the Northern Territory, on no occasion has he been given an opportunity to move in that direction, because any motion to that effect of which he has givennotice has been placed at the bottom of the notice-paper. In the same way the Government could defeat any move which might be made for the disallowance of a regulation made under this legislation. Furthermore, as the honorable member for Bourke pointed out, the Government might assemble Parliament for only one brief session each year, and by that means deprive honorable members of the right to exercise a vote against any regulation made under this measure which in their opinion should be disallowed. I feel certain that if this measure be passed in its present form and becomes operative for the duration of the war and for six months afterwards, acts will be committed in this country which will jeopardize that democracy which we now enjoy, and in defence of which we propose to wage the present war.
Clause 13 provides - (1.) Any person who is found committing an offence against this Act, or who is suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, such an offence, may be arrested without warrant.
It will be seen that its scope is very wide and that it is open to all sorts of abuses. If Parliament is not summoned, how can grievances arising out of the enforcement of this provision be ventilated?
Clause 18 provides -
A regulation made under this Act shall, subject to the Acts Interpretation Act1901- 1937, have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this Act.
Under this clause also, the Government is seeking very wide powers for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. I join my colleagues in registering a protest against this bill in its present form and the unjustifiedly lengthy period.
– During the course of my remarks, I shall relate some of my own experiences as the result of the enactment of legislation of this kind in earlier years. The democracy of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is reflected in the name of this bill which is a bitter pill, but a little more sugar-coated than the War Precautions Act. Clause 8 provides - (1.) If, with respect to any proceedings (whether instituted before or after the commencement of this Act), the court before which the proceedings arc taken is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth or any Territory of the Commonwealth so to do, the court -
I remind honorable members of the case of the late Paul Freeman, a Queensland socialist and a man of good moral character, who was deported from this country. I do not think any honorable member in this House knows whether Paul Freeman was ever tried for the offences alleged against him. It was said that he was disloyal. Those who knew him deny that, and a number of men in North Queensland say that he was a good citizen. He had no police record. He was brought to
Sydney and was allegedly tried at Darlinghurst. Among those attending the Australian Workers Union convention in Sydney at that time who knew Paul Freeman was the father of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). He was intrumental in getting one of the Australian Workers Union delegates to interview Freeman to see if he could obtain legal assistance for him to fight his case. After several hours waiting, permission was given for the delegate to interview Freeman, but when he arrived at the Darlinghurst military barracks he found that Freeman had already been deported and was then probably at Fremantle on his way overseas. Freeman was an outcast; no country wanted him. He was killed later in Russia. No law should be passed which would give power to any government to deport a man from this country without the people knowing that ho had been given a fair trial. It is said by people in North Queensland that Paul Freeman had owned a very rich copper mine, and that it is believed that some of those who laid information against him subsequently took over the mine. What happened to the late Paul Freeman under the War Precautions Act might happen again to anybody if the bill now before us is passed. Weshould pass no law to give authority for the hearing of cases of this kind in camera. A man would stand a better chance if tried by court martial than by a tribunal hearing the case in camera. Clause 13 provides -
Any person who is found committing an offence against this Act, or who is suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, such as offence, may be arrested without warrant by any constable or Commonwealth officer acting in the course of his duty as such, or by any person thereto authorized by the. Minister, in the same manner as a person who is found committing a breach of the peace may, at common law, he arrested by any constable or person. (2.) If a person suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, an offence against this Act, is arrested under the provisions of this section, a report of the fact and circumstances shall forthwith be made to the Attorney-General or to a person appointed in that behalf by the Attorney-General, and -
if no charge is laid against the suspected person within a reasonable time, he shall he released from detention ; or
if a charge is laid against the suspected person, he shall be dealt with according to law.
The Minister was at some pains to try to avoid saying what was meant by a “ reasonable time “. Under the Peace Preservation Act of Queensland, the provisions of which are similar to those of the War Precautions Act and the bill now before us, a man could be arrested and remanded for weeks only to be subsequently discharged when the Crown found that it could not prove a case against him. 1 was arrested on warrant in 1911 for an alleged contravention of the provisions of that act. A police officer come to me and said, “ I have a warrant for your arrest; what is your name?” He knew that my name was Martens, but I was only one of 30 people arrested on an open warrant, and each one of them was asked his name when informed that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. For twelve days, I was marched daily from the police station at Childers to the police court in company with others handcuffed to a long chain in the charge of an armed police guard. The charge preferred against me was riot. I was subsequently committed for trial, but, despite the fact thatwe were humiliated and made to walk before the public like a gang of felons for twelve days, no true bill was ever filed, either in my case or in that of any of the other persons arrested with me. This bill now before us gives power to a policeman or a person to arrest without warrant. I have a pretty keen perception of how some persons would like to have a man like myself arrested at any time, not because they have anything against my character, but because of my political and industrial creed. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that the Prime Minister had some radical ideas and some democratic tendencies. I should like to know what his radical ideas are, and I am sure that one would need a microscope to detect his democratic tendencies.
– I ask the honorable member not to be too hard on me.
– For over two years, I have waited for the right honorable gentleman to do something in connexion wilh breaches of Commonwealth awards, but nothing has yet been done. Regulation 44 provides -
A Minister may give directions prescribing the holding of any meeting as to which he has specified that the holding thereof would be likely to cause disturbance to public order or promote disaffection.
In view of the opinions he has expressed in this House, I oan imagine the former Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) being granted power such as that. I can realize what sort of a judge he would make.
– A perfectly good judge.
– Under this bill, the Minister may delegate his powers to some person. He might choose as his delegate Eric Campbell, or one of those people who went to the Legislative Assembly in Queensland recently with the object of keeping members in the chamber behind barbed wire until their demands were met. In my opinion, ample power already exists in the statutes to deal effectively with the matters which this bill is designed to cover. 1. agree with the honorable member for Batman that, if the laws of this country are, sufficient under normal conditions to deal with criminals in the way they , should be dealt with, there is no reason for a bill of the kind now before us. Measures such as that we are now considering are framed for one purpose only. Under this clause, the Minister may prohibit the holding of a public meeting. What kind of meeting should be prohibited is a matter for the Minister to determine. I can visualize the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), with his democratic outlook, determining whether or not a meeting should be held. The Peace Preservation Act in Queensland was brought into being by men with the same political background as the right honorable gentleman. I know something of the “ splendid democratic principles “ they retained after leaving the Labour party ; I know how anxious they are to get at the men who to-day do the things that they did when they were members of the Labour party. I oppose the granting to the Minister of the wide powers sought in this bill ; I do not believe that they are justified in any circumstances. Unless the Government is prepared to accept amendments brought forward by the Opposition, honorable members on this side of the House should vote against it. I would have no hesitation in doing so and in facing the people and telling them my reasons. This bill has been introduced for one purpose only. If a meeting is summoned to voice the objection of the people to what the Government may do, the powers conferred on the Minister under this measure will be invoked to prohibit the holding of the meeting. Why should the Minister be granted power to prohibit tho holding of sir-It a meeting merely because this country is at war? Dictators are made by legislation such as this. Yet the Government throws down on the table a bill such as this and asks the Parliament to pass it within a day or two. When the motion for the printing of the White Paper was before the House last’ night, the Government was prepared to move tho “gag” by moving that the debate be adjourned. We were called here at 3 o’clock on Wednesday, and within a few hours we were asked to pass this legislation before it was “too late”. I realize that Parliament cannot remain continuously in session. I do not believe that any one desires it to do so. Bui it would be a great help to honorable members generally if the Government would take Parliament more completely into its confidence. I appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister makes periodic statements to the press, but such statements should also be made to Parliament so that honorable members may have an opportunity to examine them and criticize them if they think it necessary.
– If it were not for the gravity of the present international situation, the proposals contained in this measure would not be tolerated for one day. This measure strikes a blow at the very roots of democratic government. For this reason I repeat the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that clause 19 should be amended. At present the clause reads -
This act shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter and no longer.
I urge that it he amended to read as follows : -
This act shall continue in operation for a period of twelve months and no longer.
I hope that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) will give me an assurance that the Government will be willing to accept an amendment to that effect.
– I cannot give such an assurance.
– Then the Opposition will have to vote against the bill. The Government should give some reasons why such an amendment cannot be accepted. I remind honorable members that within the last few days the Parliament of Victoria has passed a national security measure in which it is provided that the law shall operate for twelve months and may be renewed only by Parliament. The Victorian act also provides that the proposed regulations must first be submitted to a. committee representative of the three parties in the Parliament. If that committee is not satisfied with the Government’s proposals it can request that Parliament be summoned. Moreover, twenty members of that Parliament of 65 members may demand that Parliament be summoned. These are wise precautions, and no reason has been advanced by either the Prime Minister or any of his colleagues in the course of this debate why similar provisions should not be included in this bill. We should not give the Government a blank cheque. Apparently after this measure is passed, and the budget has been dealt with, Parliament will go into recess. It may even go into recess at the end of next- week, and remain in recess until July of next year. In the meantime the Government will be able to make all kinds of regulations without consulting either honorable members or electors. To permit that to be done would be much worse than to consent to the form of dictatorship by means of an inner Cabinet group which was so severely condemned by certain honorable gentlemen opposite quite recently. The Government should not be given carte blanche in this matter. It should be required to consult Parliament from time to time. The elected representatives of the people should not be denied their rights. Power of this kind should not be vested in the Executive to be exercised behind the back of Parliament and without consulting it.
I have been greatly impressed by reading certain remarks made by the Right Honorable W. A. Watt in a debate which took place in this House on the 28th April, 1915, more than six months after the outbreak of the last war, when a similar measure to this one was under consideration. The right honorable gentleman said -
The bill strikes a blow at many important principles which have been built up as the result of centuries of endeavour, and they are principles of which we all approve.
He also said -
But I hope the Minister will realize that although the Home Land, and many of the men engaged in its government, may feel the need for very drastic treatment of many of its problems, we in Australia are free from the conditions existing in the Old Country. lt does not necessarily follow that the conditions existing in the Isles of the North, ringed by waters, and the resort of myriads of alien enemies, are the same as those existing in a dominion like ours, out on the circumference of the world, so that provision? necessary -to Groat Britain may not be needed here. Therefore, I trust that the Minister, in Committee, will receive suggestions for the modification of the bill. We must preserve tho principle that even in time of war individuals in a democracy have rights as well as the community, and that while the safety of the community is the supreme law, the rights of individuals must be respected, as far as possible, consistent with the preservation of that safety.
I remind honorable members that Mr. Watt is a man with a brilliant mind. He was one of the ablest men who ever occupied a seat in this Parliament. He was a leader of the old Liberal party and also one of the leaders of the Nationalist party. At one time he was Acting Prime Minister and in the post-war years, during which many important problems had to be solved, he filled the position of Commonwealth Treasurer. He was Premier of Victoria for many years. Speaking from his vast experience he made it clear that he did not consider that such far-reaching power should be conferred upon the Executive. He said that there was no necessity for it in Australia.
I ask whether the Government thinks that any real need exists for the abrogation of the powers of this Parliament? 1 do not think such a need exists. The very fact that legislation of this character was not introduced until nearly seven months after the last war broke out, suggests to me an absence of any great urgency for the passing of this bill at this early stage in this war.
The Leader of the Opposition stated yesterday in his speech that he did not suggest that Parliament should bc required to sit continuously and that, in any case, the Opposition did not propose to indulge in carping criticism; its criticism would be of a constructive nature. The Prime Minister intimated that he had no wish to stifle criticism and would welcome helpful suggestions from the Opposition. The Labour party has no wish to increase the difficulties of the Government. Rather does it desire to co-operate with the Government in doing everything necessary for the defence of Australia and for the security of our people and the British Commonwealth of Nations. In offering the suggestion tonight that this bill should include a provision similar to that to be found in the National Security Act passed by the Victorian Parliament to the effect that the measure should remain in force for twelve months and that its renewal should be subject to the will of Parliament, we feel that we are acting in the best interests of the people of Australia. We have been given no assurance whatever that the Government intends to give Parliament reasonable opportunities in the coming weeks and months to consider the business of the country.
Like the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) has also urged that Parliament shall be called together at reasonable intervals. We fear that when the Government has obtained approval to the legislative programme it intends to submit during tho next fortnight or so, it will permit Parliament to remain iu recess for a long period. If this should be the case, the democratic rights of the people and of their elected representatives will be seriously impaired. Surely there is something sacred in our democratic form of government. Parliament should not be denied the right to consider the administrative acts of the Executive in the prose cution of the war, nor should it be expected to grant to the Government unlimited powers for an indefinite period. It has been said that this Government would not abuse these powers, but as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out in the admirable speech ho delivered to-night, similar promises were made when the War Precautions Act was passed in 1915, yet the powers conferred upon the Government by that measure were greatly abused. Invariably unlimited power of this kind is abused. I believe that the Prime Minister was sincere when he said that he did not intend to abuse the power that was being sought ; but such power is abused in spite of the best intentions in the world. Mr. Watt made it clear that there was danger that the power sought under the war precautions legislation of 1915 would be abused. His fears were amply justified. We do not think that the Prime Minister or his Ministers should be given powers comparable to those of dictators. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) enjoyed unlimited power for so many years during and after the last war that, in the end, he would brook no interference whatever, even from his colleagues. He would not even tolerate suggestions from members of his Ministry. In effect he assumed the role of a dictator. This attitude brought about his downfall. I urge in the best interests of the Prime Minister himself that he should trust Parliament and not ask that farreaching legislation of this description shall be rushed through both Houses in the way that is now proposed. The passing of legislation of this description is an absolute negation of democracy and a most retrogressive step repugnant to every democrat. 1 can well understand the outspoken remarks of Mr. Watt in 1915. I again call attention to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Cowper, that Parliament should be called together at frequent intervals to consider the actions of the Government in the prosecution of the war, for it is well worthy of acceptance. Quite reasonably, the Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour party did not expect Parliament to sit every day of the week, but we ask the Government 1o give an assurance that it will call Parliament together for, say, two days a week, in order that honorable members may give their attention to necessary legislation and may offer helpful criticism of the Government’s policy. “We believe that we are in a position to assist the Government to adopt effective defensive measures against aggression. We are prepared also to do our very best to help the Mother Country. We shall be glad to make available to it wheat, wool, meat and other foodstuffs. But we feel that to pass legislation of the kind now before us is to strike a blow at the freedom of our British parliamentary system and at the rights of the people. I, therefore, again urge that the operation of this measure shall be limited to twelve months. Then if the Government feels that it is necessary to extend the legislation, let it come along, as the Victorian Government will have to do, and ask Parliament for the extension. Opportunity would then be given to honor a’ble members to vote on the measure, and if abuses had occurred or if there were any weaknesses in the legislation they would be disclosed. That would give some guarantee to the people. No abuses are intended, but when the Government asks that it be given a blank cheque, that this legislation should be for the whole period of the war and six months thereafter, and when it turns aside the suggestion of the Opposition, notwithstanding what I admit to be the present honest opinion of the Prime Minister that he is not going to abuse these powers, it seems to me that he and his colleagues do fear that there will be abuses and that, if they have to ask each twelve months for an extension of this legislation, there will be criticism. The Opposition’s request is reasonable and if the Prime Minister would only agree to it the measure could go through rapidly. Then at the elapse of twelve months it could be renewed. There could be a stocktaking and we could make helpful suggestions. If the Government does not accept our suggestion, we shall have to register our protest in the only way possible, namely, by voting against the measure, and we should prefer not to be placed in that position. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has previously proved that, he is a reasonable man and
I ask him to consult the Prime Minister on this question and to let us know the decision before the vote is taken.
– In case it might be thought that all honorable gentlemen on this side of the House do not recognize the same dangers as have been voiced by honorable members of the Opposition, I rise to add a few words to this debate. I feel very strongly that a great deal of the criticism that has been offered is justified and in ordinary circumstances would be supported, but the circumstances in which we are asked to surrender the liberties which we enjoy are such that we ought to consider whether in temporarily surrendering these liberties we shall later ensure their permanency. I am appreciative of the contributions made to the debate by members of the Opposition. I realize the passionate feelings of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and others, but as the honorable member for Batman has cast back to the experience of other years in order to be able to draw comparisons and illustrations, I think that it is only fair to remind the honorable gentleman that over the last few months he himself has not been altogether appreciative of the realities of the situation. I think that for a very long period it is fair to remind him that he has discounted even the possibility of this war. Now we have war right upon us. The situation which he envisages of our being deprived entirely of our liberty is not unrecognized by us, but if democracy is to give adequate defence to democracy it must be armed with the same powers and ability to be defended as are held by the totalitarian States. That is all that is asked for in this bill. I recognize in the parliamentary form of government that the greatest security which the people and Parliament can have is a system of check? and balances. That is the practice in a democracy. One of the dangers is that this Parliament is unfortunately not controlled by the usual type of government in a. democracy, a majority government. Those who control this Parliament represent only about one-third of the members.
– Is the honorable member trying to push himself into the Cabinet?
– No, I merely point out the danger that must be recognized, and of which cognizance must be taken. It is possible that the possession of power will lead to the use of power and that in the course of time the use of power will lead to the abuse of power, not necessarily by the Ministers who have tha direct use of power, but by those to whom they delegate that use. One of the checks iu a parliamentary dictatorship is the party system. In the confines of the party a matter is debated and a party or caucus decision is made which frequently avoids the necessity of the overthrow of the Government on the floor of the House in order to prevent a certain thing from being done. In these circumstances the only way in which this Parliament can check the Government is by the drastic stop of throwing the Government over altogether. The position is often such that we may approve of four-fifths of what is being done and disapprove of onefifth. There is a temptation for the Government to put forward the one-fifth of which we disapprove because it knows that we will support the other four-fifths. That is the danger which arises when an attempt is made to govern the country other than by a majority government. Much as I am loth to surrender power to anybody, I feel that the circumstances in the present emergency are such that, in the interests of the nation, the Executive should be possessed of the flexibility of action that the generalissimo in tho field would expect to have if he were to have the maximum advantages for the purpose of victory. In this particular instance, the Executive is the generalissimo in charge of our fortunes in this war, and it is necessary, whether we like it or not, in the interests of the people as a whole and for the preservation of democracy after this crisis has passed, to enable the Ministry to wage war as war must be waged.
It has been said that there is no urgency in this matter, but it has been indicated that the matter of providing our surplus foodstuffs and raw materials for Great Britain is already under way. The contracts have to he made, and they are being made before this measure goes through Parliament. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that this is a matter of extreme urgency. In a time of crisis it is not always safe to assume that what the Parliament does is the correct thing to do, although it may be the democratic thing. I remind honorable gentlemen that only a few months ago the President of the United States of America, with all his knowledge of what was occurring in Europe, appealed to the Congress of the United States of America not to pass the Neutrality Act, It was said in the press that President Roosevelt prayed to God that Europe was not at war before Christmas and before Congress met again. Iu spite of the plea of the President and those who with him had inside information, the Congress passed the Neutrality Act. with the result that, for the time being at least, the United States of America is not merely out of the war but is also not in a position to supply even Australia with the aeroplanes that were ordered. In a crisis such as this it may not be well for an Executive in possession of all of the facts and circumstances to be dictated to by parliamentary members who are not in possession of the same information.
– Tell us the South African story.
– I am dealing with current history, that is at the moment affecting our fortunes very vitally and may in the ultimate have an outstanding effect upon them.
– The honorable member has been reading Mein Kampf.
– If some honorable gentleman opposite and some statesmen throughout the world had read Mein Kampf and realized what was before us, it is possible that this crisis would have been met earlier. I have with me a copy of Mein Kampf and any gentleman interested in it may obtain it.
Order ! Any “ honorable member “, not “ any gentleman “.
– I remind the House that the Parliament of Great Britain which consists of about 670 members passed an act similar to this piece of legislation in less than two hours. If there be necessity for such legislation in Great Britain, which is not hindered by a written Constitution and which has the Defence of the Realm Act, how much n.ore necessary is it that there should be this legislation in a country which is bound by a written Constitution, by State rights and all other disadvantages associated with tlie federal system as against tlie unified system of government. South Africa, New Zealand and Great Britain have unified systems of government and they need this sort of legislation and there is much more need for it in Australia. I appreciate to the full sentiments expressed by members of the Opposition.. I realize that we are surrendering something which at times we shall be sorry we have surrendered, but I feel certain that we are in for a long struggle. The only way in which we shall get out of that struggle quickly is by a virtual victory over the Central Powers. If we are to win, taking into consideration the strategical position of those powers, I can only say that the struggle will be long and difficult. I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but I believe that for the welfare of this nation it is necessary to pass this legislation in order to enable the Executive to prosecute the war as effectively as possible.
-During this, important debate I have been struck by the lack of interest on the part of many supporters of the Government. That lack of interest impressed me when I first entered this chamber and the National Register Bill was before it. So impressed was I with the apparent unconcern of members that I took an early opportunity to direct, the attention of Mr. Speaker to the state of the House. As I speak, I see on the other side of the chamber only two members of the Ministry and three Government supporters. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us that he wishes topreserve the democratic rights of this nation after the war is over. We on this side wish to preserve those democratic rights during the period of the war also. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has just said that he predicts a war of long duration, and, unfortunately, those of us who have studied the various phases lending up to the crisis, are forced to agree with him. That being so, why should a measure introduced by a government whose term of office will expire in about another twelve months be placed on the statutebook permanently? I urge the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) to accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to limit the term of this legislation to twelve months. Most honorable members have vivid recollections of what transpired during 1914-3 S, when the War Precautions Act was in operation. It is true that, for a portion of that period, the Labour party was in power. The powers reposed in them were too great for some members of that party, and before long they forgot their obligations to those who had placed them in positions of authority. They used the almost unlimited powers vested in them in ways which were not in the best interests of Australia. We do not want similar things to happen during this war. The Government seeks power to do such things as to introduce a curfew system, prohibit persons in the community from attending trade union or political meetings, or holding processions, such as the Eight-hours Day procession. I am certain that the people of Australia do not wish to confer such powers on the Government, particularly a government which represents practically only one-third of the electors. The Government hopes to go into recess within a few weeks, and then to carry on the administration of the country as it thinks fit. We on this side represent many thousands of electors - there are 60,000 of them in my electorate - and we desire to take our share of the responsibility for governing thi3 country. We do not wish to come here for only a week or two, and then to be cast aside in order to suit the whims of the Prime Minister and the inner group of Cabinet. We are prepared to shoulder our responsibilities and should be permitted to do so. We are supposed to be fighting a dictatorship on the other side of the world, but here in Australia, the present Government is trying to institute its own dictatorship. It has already formed an “inner group” of Cabinet which is dominated by one mau who would dominate the whole of this Parliament, if he could. That is a form of dictatorship that we do not want in
Australia. I, therefore, sincerely hope that the Assistant Minister will accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and limit the operation of this bill to a period of twelve months. In my opinion, even twelve months is too long; I should prefer not more than six months to elapse without reviewing this legislation. We know that certain things will be done during tho recess, unless we take steps to prevent them. Honorable members generally desire to assist the Government with constructive, not destructive, criticism. That being so, the Government should call Parliament together at frequent intervals, and not as infrequently as possible, as is likely. During the war of 1914-18, the government of the day launched attacks on men with strong Labour principles; it raided premises, and placed men on trial. We do not want similar things to occur again, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will allow honorable members to accept their full share of the responsibility which the electors expect them to take. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for men entrusted with great powers to seek still further authority. The world knows how that spirit has grown upon Hitler. Once a small man in a small way, bc has gradually worked himself into positions of power ; now he hopes to dominate the whole world. We do not want anything like that to happen in this democratic country, but, unfortunately, things are tending in that direction. In order to avoid it, the Government should allow every honorable member to accept bis full share of the responsibility of government. If the Government wishes to have time to attend to tho many duties that will fall to it during the war, it can arrange for Parliament to meet on, say, two days a week, as was suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) or for one week in every two weeks. I hope that the Government will not arrange for a long recess, but will call Parliament together at frequent intervals, so that the elected representatives of the’ people may accept their share of the responsibility for the government of this country.
– Of the excellent speeches which have been delivered on this measure, I was particularly . interested in those of the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Batman (Mr. Brennan). Those honorable members placed before the House excellent reasons for tempering the regulations that we are told by the Government are necessary to meet the situation which has arisen because of the declaration of war. It is a matter for regret that more honorable members of the Government side of the House were not present to hear those speeches. In this connexion the Country party is not altogether blameless, although, at the moment, it is well represented in the chamber. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the present Government as a minority government. I was not conscious that it was a minority government, because I heard the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page) on more than one occasion express his. party’s intention to co-operate with the Government in the prosecution of the war. At no time since I have been in this House have I noticed any lack of support by members of the Country party for the measures introduced by the Government. At such a time as this, the line of demarcation between political parties should be erased, so that the fullest support possible may be given to the Government in carrying out the stupendous task that lies before it. I regret the necessity for legislation of this description; even now I believe that more democratic principles should be applied to the handling of the situation. On many occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has expressed his strong belief in democratic principles. He has now the opportunity to demonstrate the sincerity of his beliefs by putting a little more trust in the people. I remember that when legislation similar to that now before us was in operation during the last war, many instances of harsh administration, and even abuse of power, occurred. People of foreign birth were subjected to abuse which was not justified. I fear that during this struggle such things will be repeated, although perhaps not in the same degree. It is noteworthy that the people of Australia are entering this war in a much more sober and thoughtful spirit than was exhibited when they entered the last war.
They have a greater realization of what is involved and of the sacrifices that may be demanded. They are giving much more 1 bought to the implications of the declarations of war. But I have no doubt that the Australian people will play their part just as nobly and as truly as they did on the last occasion. There are some matters about which members of the Country party particularly should be concerned in the consideration of legislation of this description. I have in mind the indication that has been given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and other members of the Labour party that an amendment is to be moved for the limitation of the period during which the act shall be operative. That is a good, sound, democratic principle. I remember the muddle and injustice that were associated with the handling of our exportable primary products, particularly wheat. Our surplus wheat was sold to the British Government for something like 4s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b., and at the end of the war much of it was resold lo the smaller European countries at as high a price as 25s. a bushel. That information is authentic, because it has been abstracted from Stead’s Review, which was a very reliable journal at that time. That illustrates the necessity for our having the opportunity to review this legislation from time to time. Legislation of this nature in Victoria has established an excellent precedent, which we might well follow with good results. I intend to give to the Government all the support that I can in the prosecution of the war to a successful conclusion; but at the same time we shall expect greater efficiency, and better control in every respect in regard to prices and profiteering, than we had “u the former occasion. With this reservation, and with the information that I intend to support an amendment of the nature indicated - an amendment which 1 hope will he supported also by members of this Country party - I shall vote for the second reading of the bill. I can only express the hope that the war will he of short duration, and that a lasting peace will he brought about as quickly as possible.
.- 1 had expected that this measure would have been designed to ensure not only national security but also the preservation of many of the privileges for which the people of this country have fought so strenuously. It is being discussed m the early hours of the morning, and I hope that it will not take the form of the thief in the night, and wrest from the people their freedom of thought and expression, and their liberty so to go their ways that their interests and welfare will be unaffected. I feel that during the progress of this war many opportunities will be taken by different Ministers under the powers conferred by this measure to inflict varying forms of persecution on the people, as was done during the last war. We are told that this war is being fought in defence of minorities, and for the overthrow of a ruthless dictatorship, yet the measure proposes to give powers to the Ministry equal to those which we are trying to crush in Europe to-day. The policy of the Labour party has been ably expounded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). We are prepared to co-operate with the Government, in prosecuting the war so that the freedom of the peoples in all parts of the world will be sustained. But we look to the Government to refrain from taking from the people of this country those liberties and that freedom which we are fighting to conserve for peoples in other parts of the world. Mr. Chamberlain, in announcing that Great Britain was at war with Germany, expressed the hope that the outcome of the conflict would be the overthrow of Nazi-ism. We hope that its outcome will not be the infliction of a similar system on the people of Australia. That we are at war must not be made an excuse for placing any injustice on our own people. The estabLishment in the Commonwealth of a dictatorship such as that, which, it. is claimed, we are at war to destroy would indeed be a misfortune to our people. In endorsing the excellent speeches made by other honorable members who sit. on this side of the House, I. take the opportunity to express the views of those whom I represent in this Parliament. Probably no centre in New South Wales had greater hardship and persecution imposed on its people than did Broken Hill in the fight against ihe introduction of conscription.
During -the last war, the people of that city suffered severely because they had tlie temerity to fighttrenuously ag against the attempt of the Government of the day to enforce conscription for overseas service. For expressing their views according to their rights in a democratic country they were placed in prison, and heavy and vicious fines were, imposed on them. I am certain that the present Government would not be backward in taking similar action if it desired to enforce conscription in the near future. There is not the same heat aud fervour in the early stages of this waitlist we may expect from Ministers later. We are told that the Government does not intend to enforce conscription on the people. But a similar pronouncement was made during the last war, and only twelve months later a determined effortwas made to enforce conscription. Therefore in the light of that experience we must view any statement on the subject made in this House to-night, with doubt aud suspicion. For instance the opinion of be ( Govern mont has been altered from time to time during the last few days. It was sta ted earlier that there was no possibility of an expeditionary force being sent, overseas, yet. later one Minister made the .statement, which was published in the press to-day. that the Government had not. come to any definite decision in the matter. With such contradictions there is every possibility that in the near future it. may decide to send an expeditionary force overseas. If that should be, proposed, and the Government should decide to resort to conscription in order to augment the force, I say definitely that honorable members on this side will be entitled to the greatest freedom of expression; they must be permitted to oppose the Government on this matter by <;very means available to them. The regulations to be brought, down under this measure can and may be used by the Government to prevent them from doing so. 1 1 is useless for Government members to say now that that will not happen. Only by what, we have experienced, particularly among the people 1. represent, are we able to form an opinion of what may happen in the future, and having regard no what happened in “I t> I -4- J S . we, must be wary of what we accept to-night. These are some of the prime considerations which must concern honorable members on this side of the House when dealing with this measure. We must approach this bill with every care, and scrutinize it closely. I believe that, whilst there are certain provisions which might be beneficially implemented by the Government, there are many others which are very dangerous. Different speakers have pointed out that the provision that the Government shall not have the power to enforce either industrial conscription or conscription for military service has no weight, because provision which would enable industrial conscription to be enforced has already been made in measures that have previously been passed through this Parliament. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has said that that is not so. It certainly applies to Government factories and annexes; and I take it that during the present crisis many privately-owned factories will be placed under Government control, and that those employed in thc/m will then be in the same category as others who are now in the Government service, with the result that economic or industrial conscription can be- forced on them. The Labour party is distinctly wary of this measure because of some of its provisions. I fear that many of those provisions will be used to persecute a. large number of people in this country. If the Government should consider at any time that in order satisfactorily to prosecute this war it is necessary to enforce conscription, every person in this country should be free to oppose unrestrictedly such a proposal and should not be charged with causing disaffection and interfering with the successful prosecution of the war. By reason of our experience of the operation of a similar act, during the last war. we have every reason to be wary and to fight against the passing of this bill. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) has said, in relation to the primary producers, profiteering was practised on Hie last occasion, and for much of it the British Government itself was responsible. I have previously drawn attention in this House to the prices at which wheat, wool, and other products were taken over from Australia by the
British. Government. The wool was acquired at about 15½d. per lb., and was sold at about 6s. or 8s. per lb. The largest proportion of that profit was lost to the wool-growers of this country. As a matter of fact, it is estimated, conservatively, that the British authorities made a profit of £500,000,000 out of the resale of the wool clip bought at 15½d. per lb. from the Australian growers. Under paragraph 3 of section 11 of the War Precautions Act, the publication of the prices obtained: overseas for wool and other commodities was prohibited. That was a definite interference with the rights and liberties of the people. Generally, that act imposed hardship, imprisonment, and fines, and made the lives of many people as hard and as uncomfortable as possible. It was used as a means not only to exploit the primary producers, but also to prevent them from knowing the way in which they were being exploited by prohibiting the publication of the prices obtained.
– Even at this early hour of the morning I consider it my duty to express briefly my views upon a measure of such importance. Despite the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the bill provides a reservoir of power, I contend that it does not, as there is some limit to the capacity of a reservoir, whereas no limitation is imposed upon the power of the Executive under this bill. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of the members of this Parliament to inform their constituents of the power which the Government seeks to obtain, and to explain to them that it is our earnest desire that the time for which the measure shall operate shall be limited to twelve months. Such extensive powers should not be conferred upon any government for an indefinite period. In common with other honorable members I believe that, although it is impossible to forecast the duration of the present war, the struggle will be long drawn out. Those of us who took an active part in the previous conflict find it difficult to realize .that after a quarter of a century we are confronted with an international upheaval probably worse than that of 1914-18. We are asked to assist Britain in the interest of the democracies, but the Government is seeking to introduce a form of government similar to that which we are endeavouring to stamp out.
I take this opportunity to refer to the German inhabitants of- this country. It is known to most honorable members, and particularly those representing South Australia, that probably one-quarter of my constituents are of German descent, and it is only right that I should speak on their behalf. The forefathers of these people came from Germany nearly 100 years ago and settled in Australia, because of the persecution to which they had been subjected in their own country. Many German men and women settled in a land unknown to them, and in the sphere of intensive farming they and their descendants have undoubtedly proved the best colonists Australia has ever had. During the last war many of them were treated most unjustly. Having lived amongst them and knowing many of them personally, I am aware of the humiliation to which they had to submit during the previous war. Moreover, I served with some of them in- the Australian Imperial Force, and after a period some with German names were brought back to headquarters and their loyalty questioned although a number of their fellows had been killed in fighting for the Allied cause.
– And it is now proposed to confiscate their property.
– There is even the risk of that being done. At a time of crisis there is always the possibility of those in authority losing, their sense of judgment, and having an utter disregard for fair play. That occurred during the previous war, and I hope that as a result of experience it will not occur again. They should be given the liberty of which we profess to be so proud. I do not propose to cite individual cases, but many Germans in Australia have played a most important part in its development, and particularly those men who were brought to Australia by the late Mr. George Fife Angas about 100 years ago. Descendants of many of those early settlers are now spread all over Australia and are rendering a very valuable service to the community.
– The result of the debate so far indicates that it is believed on this side of the House that, in effect, the Government is asking for a blank cheque, and the right to do practically what it wishes without the authority of Parliament. I agree with the Views expressed by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) concerning the absence of Ministers from the chamber during the debate on this important measure. On rare occasions some senior Ministers have paid only a short visit to the chamber, but others have been absent throughout the debate, and the serious nature of the problem with which this bill proposes to deal is not being treated seriously by the members of the Cabinet. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender), who is temporarily in charge of the bill, lias been present throughout. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) have dealt with the underlying principle of the bill in a manner which would have convinced Ministers, had they been present, and open to conviction, that the claims of the Opposition are worthy of more consideration than they appear likely to receive. Doubtless regulations covering various activities will have to be promulgated, but we cannot be expected to grant the Government all of the extensive powers it seeks without protest. There are specific clauses in the bill which can be dealt with more effectively in committee, but there are others to which I must direct attention at this stage. For instance, clause 8 dispenses with the recognized procedure of hearing certain charges in open court, which is one of the treasured liberties of the British people. Yet this Government proposes that certain charges shall be heard behind closed doors. I wonder if some honorable members opposite who propose to support the bill really know what they are voting for. If in the proceedings in closed courts certain disclosures are made, publicity shall not be given to them, and if subsequently a person charged feels that he has been treated unjustly and makes any disclosure of that feeling he could, without trial, be adjudged guilty of contempt of court. The measure thus dispenses with the right of protest, which is another liberty which the people should not be asked to forgo. The honorable member for New England (Mi. Thompson) agrees with the suggestion made by’ the Leader of the Opposition that the measure should operate only for a specified period, and a similar pronouncement, although not so definite, was made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). Had the measure been introduced earlier honorable members would have had an opportunity to debate it more intelligently, and possibly notwithstanding the docility of the Government supporters to assist in modifying its drastic provisions. Under clauses 10 and 13 the right to arrest without warrant is provided, and an irresponsible person, acting under these provisions, is protected by sub-clause 3 of clause 13. I strongly object to powers from being delegated to any authority which is not responsible to this Parliament. No indication has been given by any responsible Minister that it is intended to permit Parliament to have a say in regard to the regulations. Members of the Opposition would not be doing their duty to the electors, of whom they represent more than half, if they did not protest against these proposals. If we have not the numbers in this House, we certainly have them outside. I hate the idea of handing over to Cabinet, however good its intentions, powers that will enable it to escape constructive criticism. The Opposition might be able to correct mistakes by the Cabinet. Why should members of the Government assume that the conduct of Australia’s participation in this unfortunate war can be successfully handled only by themselves ? There are men on this side of the House who could offer helpful criticism, and I am entirely opposed to the handing over of the powers which have been vested in us by the electors. Parliament consists of 110 members, whose sacred duty is to represent the people. Now it is proposed to deprive some of them of their powers. There is no indication that the Government proposes to call Parliament together at frequent intervals. This democracy which is assisting in the fight against an unscrupulous autocracy, is being asked to support some of the principles of autocracy. I am convinced that if some of the honorable members opposite were free to voice their own opinions they, too, would be opposed to the proposals in this bill. The newspapers have stated that it is intended to form an inner cabinet, so that the real government of the country will be in the hands of this inner group, or war cabinet. The Executive now consists of something over a .dozen men ; if a war cabinet be formed, all power will rest in the hands of half a dozen men. Surely they do not expect the people to believe that they possess all the wisdom necessary to conduct the war successfully! Are they afraid that criticism of the Opposition would be purely destructive? Such a suggestion is a reflection on honorable members on this side of the House. Instead of indicating their belief in democratic institutions, and allowing them to function as they ought, members of. the Government are going in the opposite direction, and asking that the democratic powers of this Parliament be nullified. There is no need for me to expound further the opinions I hold on this subject. I subscribe to those opinions already stated in the debate so ably by many of my colleagues, and, in view of the fact that we have been given no assurance as to what the Government intends to do under this measure, I am compelled to oppose it. Will the Minister state when Parliament will be called together after the proposed adjournment at an early date? Will he give an assurance that Parliament will not be kept in recess for more than one or two months? If such an assurance be given wo might believe that the Government does not intend to take away altogether the rights of Parliament, but in its absence we are compelled to oppose by every means in our power the introduction of the autocratic methods which are embodied in this bill.
– In no circumstances would I agree to the proposals contained in this measure, but as members of the Opposition, and, indeed, the majority of the people, do not trust the present Government, I am particularly anxious to register my opposition. I have examined the bill closely, and I can visualize circumstances in which I myself might be compelled to come into conflict with the law in carrying out what I believed to be my duty as a member of Parliament. Certain assurances have been given in regard to the conscription of man-power for overseas service. The Prime Minister stated to-day in answer to question* that the Government had no intention to introduce conscription, but that refers only to the present intention, of the Government. If the need should arise, I feel sure that this Government would not hesitate to do what another government attempted to do in similar circumstances. 1 disagree with certain of my colleagues regarding the effect of that clause in the bill which provides that there shall be no imposition of compulsory naval, military or air force service, or any form of industrial conscription. I believe that that provision does at least prevent the promulgation of regulations under this bill for the purposes mentioned, but that does not afford much protection. Power already exists under the Defence Act to enable the Government, by means of an amending bill, to introduce conscription for overseas service. It might be argued that this could be done only by Parliament. That is true, but let us see how the Opposition would be handicapped. When it was Bought to introduce conscription during the last war, the Government found that it did not have sufficient numbers in both Houses of Parliament to impose conscription without first holding a referendum. During the subsequent campaign, those who opposed conscription were greatly hampered in stating their case to the public because of the operation of certain regulations under the War Precautions Act. The position now would be much worse, because the Government has a majority in both Houses of Parliament, It could pass through Parliament a measure introducing conscription, and would not have to take a referendum at all. Members of the Opposition could make speeches in this Parliament against the measure, it is true, but in what way could they make their views known to the public? Hansard is a record of the speeches of honorable members, but the Government, exercising its powers of censorship, could prevent the circulation of Hansard through the post. It could also prevent the newspapers from publishing the speeches of members of the Opposition who, if they desired to continue their campaign against conscription, would inevitably find themselves in conflict with the law. A perusal of the regulations already introduced makes clear how difficult it would be for mem bers of the Opposition to oppose the conscription proposals of the Government outside Parliament without falling foul of the law. Under the heading of Public Order, regulation 41 states -
– (1.) A person shall not -
Even the circulation of the speeches of members of the Opposition among the public would be a contravention of that provision. Regulation 42, dealing with propaganda, is as follows: -
– (1 . ) A person shall not -
It would be impossible, therefore, for honorable members to oppose conscription without exposing themselves to severe penalties once the measure was passed through this Parliament, as it could be passed with the majority that the Government possesses. Under regulation 44, the Minister may veto the holding of any meeting if he considers that a breach of the regulations may be committed, or that a disturbance of the peace may occur. If a member of the Opposition were to defy the authorities, and say that he had a public duty to his constituents to address them on these matters, he could be placed under arrest, and kept in custody for an indefinite period without any charge being preferred against him. The regulation states merely that he may be detained for a “ reasonable period “, but the Minister has not stated what he believes to be a reasonable period.
Therefore, once a citizen is arrested for coining into conflict with these regulations, he may be kept in custody for an indefinite period without being charged.
-i am quite prepared at the committee stage to accept a time limit in respect to that provision, so that there will be no doubt on the point. I suggest somewhere about ten days.
– I am greatly relieved to learn that it will be not more than ten days before a charge is preferred. After a charge has been laid against a civilian he can be taken before a court from which the public are excluded. After having listened to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I feel that there is every reason to be alarmed at the possibility of being arrested for coming into conflict, with regulations, and of having to run the gauntlet of the star chamber. If the Government, wishes to assure the community that it has no intention to introduce conscription for service overseas, it can do that very simply. It has provided that this legislation shall operate for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter. Is it prepared to give an assurance that it. will not introduce conscription for service overseas at any stage in the present conflict?
– -I thought that the Prime Minister made the Government’s intention perfectly clear.
– In answer to the honorable member forReid ‘(Mr. Gander), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that the Government had no intention to introduce conscription for service overseas. But that, I understand, applies only to its present intention. We on this side are aware of the capacity of honorable members opposite to twist their words to mean anything that suits them. I should like the Government, to give an undertaking, in the clearest possible terms, that it will not introduce conscription for service overseas at any stage during the present war. If it does that it will at least ease the situation a little. Like the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), I should like the Government’s intention guaranteed in legislative form. I heard the Prime Minister talk at length about the liberties which we are called upon to protect in this war, including the right of free speech, yet almost immediately after making that address he asks this Parliament to pass a measure which violates that principle. We shall not be able to exercise free speech without fall ing foul of legislation of this kind. What are the liberties of which the Government speaks at this juncture, and what does it ask us to defend? As I said when speaking on another measure, I do not believe that all of those who have joined arms against Hitler are actuated by identical motives. I do not believe that this Government is concerned in the least degree with the liberties of our people, or the defence of our democratic institutions. The civil liberties which we possess are not peculiar to British communities, or to any people living under a particular flag. Every country has the oppressed and the oppressor. Civil liberties in any one country are notwon by fightinga foreign foe, but by efforts confined to that country; and such rights arc maintained only by a constant, struggle on the part of the people who enjoy them against those who would accept the first opportunity to destroy them. We should be lacking in our duty to the people of this country if we were prepared to surrender our civil liberties without a struggle. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) adopts a’ peculiar attitude in this debate. He says that we are in a desperate position, and must defend our democratic institutions. In order to save those institutions, the honorable gentleman, in effect, urges us to close them up, to put them into cold storage, as it were, until the war is over.. In spite of what the Government might, say, the necessity for legislation of this kind does not exist.
– If the honorable member for Richmond had his way he would close up our democratic institutions, and keep them closed for ever.
– The Opposition views very seriously the proposals embodied in this measure, because they are designed to destroy our civil liberties. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) admitted that there might be something to be’ said in favour of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that this legislation should have a duration of only twelve months. Even that concession would not guarantee the protection of our democratic institutions.
– The Leader of the Opposition said it would be acceptable.
– No ; he said that it would be a considerable improvement upon the Government’s proposal, and, probably, it was as much as we could expect this Government to concede. In any case, even if we provided that this legislation be reviewed every twelve months, we call easily imagine what a war-crazy” government formed by the party now in power would do even in that short space of time to destroy our democratic institutions. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) recalled how, in 1916, the then Prime Minister attempted to give effect to regulations under the War Precautions Act which would have disfranchised every man eligible who refused to volunteer for active service in the war then, raging. If that attempt had been successful, many men who voted against conscription would have been disfranchised, with the result that the Government of the day would soon have been able to introduce conscription. We know what happened during the last war. Unlike some honorable members, I cannot speak of that period from personal experience; but having read a good deal concerning the events of those days, and having conversed with many who had first-hand experience of them, .1 now know a little about what happened. I know that certain officials had the right to enter the homes of the workers and to turn over their belongings in a search for evidence to substantiate a charge against those whom the Government thought safer to put away. When such evidence did not exist officials “ planted “ it in the dwellings, and then conveniently discovered it. I know that men were unjustly imprisoned for making statements against the Government of that day. Knowing these things, how can we be expected now, just on the say-so of the Prime Minister to accept his assurance that there will be no abuse of these powers. I am not prepared to do so, and I think I voice the opinion of the majority of the people of this country when I say that this Government does not possess their confidence. As I said the other night, the best thing this Government could have done if it desired to meet the wishes of the people in the present crisis would have been to give to them an immediate opportunity to say what party should now be in control. But this Government was not prepared to do that. On the contrary, it seeks absolute power to make regulations not only pertaining to any specific matter, but also in direct conflict with any. act now on our statute-book, furthermore, nobody will be able to challenge such action on its part. It is useless to say that the judiciary can determine how far the Executive shall go, because we generally find, particularly in a time of war, that those who sit in authority in our various tribunalsare prepared to twist and distort the law in order to give to the military clique in control of the country any decision it desires. This is probably one of very few opportunities which remain to me to protest under privilege as a member of this Parliament against the actions of this Government, but should it attempt to dishonour its pledge not to impose conscription for service overseas, I shall be prepared in the face of all the risks to protest outside this Parliament against such an attempt. I believe that many honorable members of the Opposition also will be prepared to take those risks. We resent the attempt of the Government to destroy the democratic right of the people to make their voice heard through their parliamentary representatives. We say to the workers of this, and of every other country, that they should not be misled by phrases designed to inflame their minds and induce them to enter more readily the- present conflict. On this occasion the cry sent out to the workers is that they must defeat Germany and Hitler in order to protect their own democratic institutions. I say to the workers of Australia, and of other countries, that it is necessary to defeat Hitler in this war, because he is attacking the rights of the workers in Germany, and attempting to impose his policy on the workers of other countries. Hut whilst we must oppose fascism in other countries, we must, at the same time, be ready to resist fascism in our own. Do not -imagine that every one in our midst wishes to see Germany defeated. Many in this country believe in fascism and would like to see the trade union movement crushed and the democratic rights of the people destroyed. They would rather see Hitler succeed than give to the workers in Germany or in any other country an opportunity to secure justice. I urge Australians who believe in true democracy not only to endeavour to bring this war to a successful conclusion, but also to be ever on their guard so that whilst defeating fascism abroad they do not allow it to take root in this country. I want to impress on the Opposition the need to be very watchful in order to ensure that the Government does not take away the civil liberties of the people. If we stand solidly on that position, we shall win the support and approval of the majority of the Australian people. Alt bough we may not. have the numbers iu this Parliament to enforce our will, 1 believe that we have the support of the majority of people outside. If we stand rigidly by our cause, we can prevent the Government from taking away from the people the liberties that they enjoy to-day.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [2.31 a.m. J. - I wish briefly to register my opposition and objection to this measure. I. remind the Minister for Defence. (Mr. Street) and the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that the approval and pleasure expressed by Ministers at the unanimity which existed on all sides of the House with regard to Australia’s position in the war will be jeopardized if the Government, uses this bill as an instrument, to close the doors of this Parliament and to irritate the people of Australia. During the first two years of the last war, the Australian people presented a united front; but when in 1916 the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) became Prime Minister and commenced to use the War Precautions Act as an irritating and disturbing factor in order to bring about conscription in this country, he created factions, disturbances and turmoil which left their mark. In those days men were railroaded to gaol and cowardly action was taken to bring them before the courts. The proceedings were dropped, pending the holding of the elections, and during the election campaign, while the cases were still sub judice, the Prime Minister violated all the laws of decency by using tlie evidence heard before the courts to defeat his Labour opponents. I am suspicious of the measure now before us, particularly as another election is imminent. Having seen mcn who were once members of the Labour party and pledged to support and fight for the things Labour stands for turn round and do things of that sort, I am not prepared to accept the assurance that men not imbued with the principles of Labour will not do the same. 1 say in all fairness that the men who give these assurances may do so in good faith; they may think to-day that they will not do the things we fear, but they do not know what, might boil up during the next twelve months. They do not know what conditions will arise under which they will be tempted to abuse the powers proposed to be conferred by this bill. We are asked to give into the hands of the Government a piece of legislation which will allow it to tear up every other act on the statutebook. I remember very well many of the tilings that happened during the last war. livery time I went on to the public platform to fight conscription, I faced arrest and imprisonment. At that time .policemen took notes of everything we said. We even had the spectacle of police going into Parliament House in Brisbane and trying to seize copies of fi an sard in order to destroy the records of the Queensland Parliament, At that time the “ brass hate “ clothed in a little brief authority and strutting about like peacocks were irritating every body. I told the Minister before this bill was brought down that the “brass hats” at Port Kembla had threatened to turn a man, his wife and two children out of their home because it was in the way of some defence works that were to be proceeded with. I had a bitter experience during the period .of the last war. As a member of this Parliament and a representative of ti large number of people in this country, to whom T am responsible for what T say aru! do here in their name, 1 am not prepared to give to this Government, or to any other government, the powers sought in the . measure now before us, particularly when we know that it will be invoked by the Government to shut up the Parliament, and to govern the country by regulation. If anything will be calculated to irritate the democrats in this country, and do things that will create disturbances in Australia, it will not be the speeches made by members of the Opposition, but the actions of Ministers and “ brass hats “ acting under their instructions. We started the last war with a clear financial sheet, and with practically no national debt, but to-day we have a huge national debt, and we shall have to add to it as this war goes on. When this war has brought an aftermath of financial troubles, it will be found that the Government, in order to rectify the position, will use the only means it knows; it will depress the standards of the people; it will attack arbitration awards, and even the very right to associate in trade unions will be endangered. The Minister will be fair enough to admit that if he were convinced that, in the interests of the safety of the country, trade unions should be disbanded for the time being, he would not hesitate to disband them. It is easy to persuade oneself to do certain things if one wants to do them. And that becomes doubly easy when those upon whom we rely for support coerce us into a belief that what we do is right. Much wrong has been done in this world by people who had been persuaded that what they had done was right. I do not want to see again in this country the turmoil that existed when the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, and, strutting about the country, deliberately made his irritating speeches, magnified the Warwick egg incident, traduced men with whom he had been associated for years, and invoked the War Precautions Act in order to railroad men to gaol. No one can forget that; it is embedded too deeply in the minds of the people. I am not prepared to give him any power at. all; he is one man whom 1 will not trust an inch with any power, because he has a brain that immediately becomes inflamed by the acquisition of a little authority. It is a good job that he has not the powers that Hitler has in Germany. I believe that the democrats of this country will reecho the statements which I have made to-day. Because of this, and because of the knowledge that we have of past events, we are not prepared to give these powers to the Government. I believe that they would be abused by Ministers who perhaps had been persuaded that they were doing right; I am sure that they would be abused by “ brass hats “ clothed in a little brief authority, who would strut all over the country. The British race since the time of William the Conqueror has. been against government by the sword, strutting soldiers in uniform, and domination of the country by a standing army, and I am opposed to this legislation. The powers sought under this bill are opposed to everything for which the British race has stood. We were told that German militarism was the enemy during the last war. Well, we sent our soldiers to the battle-fields of Europe to fight against it, and now the Governmentis trying to drag it into this country by the back door. As this measure is pregnant with all such dire possibilities, I abhor it, and I shall oppose it with every fibre of my being.
– It is not exaggerated.
– The bitter experiences to which I have referred - experiences which I personally did not have, because some of my colleagues are much older than I am, and were members of the Commonwealth Parliament during the last war - were the result of their activities during that period, and caused them a great deal of suffering. An answer to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is to be found in the utterances of these men, arising from their own particular and special knowledge. They suffered a great deal and they have not forgotten it. Consequently they intend, as far as is humanly possible, to prevent a similar situation from arising again.
The more this bill is discussed, the more dangerous it seems to be. It will undoubtedly take away from Parliament and from other institutions in this country rights which our people value. The whole situation is paradoxical in the extreme. In the last few years, the leaders in British countries particularly have been drawing attention to the onward march of the dictators. Now they have come to believe that the dictatorships actually threaten the freedom of the world. It is for this reason really that we find ourselves at war. The democracies are convinced that they must resist the onward march of the dictators and try to restore to the people of certain other countries, particularly Germany, the freedom which they have lost through the intolerable “ conduct of their leaders. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, has declared how very greatly he regrets the necessity to go to war, but he believes that it is necessary to destroy the present form of government in Germany in order to restore to the German people the right to conduct their own affairs as they did in former days. Yet although the war is being waged on that basis, this Government is asking Parliament to give to it powers of the most autocratic character, equal, in fact, to those exercised by Hitler to-day. Personally I can see no reason whatever to justify the Government in seeking these powers. Such far-reaching authority should not be conferred upon a government in a democratic country. The acts of the Executive in such countries should be continually subjected to the review of the Parliament. No real reason has been advanced to justify the granting of unlimited authority to the Government. As it is possible to call the Parliament together quickly should the need arise, I submit that the Government should ‘be content with far less power than is now sought. If the need arose later to equip it with greater power, that would undoubtedly be done. Our complaint is that power is being sought for which there is really no need. We also fear that once this unlimited authority is conferred upon tho Executive, Parliament will be allowed to remain in recess for long periods.
Apart from authority to deal with aliens and also with profiteers, 1 can see no need to equip the Government with very much more power than it already possesses. Certainly we shall not be justified in giving to it a blank cheque. So long as Parliament can be summoned quickly the regulation-making power of the Government should be kept within reasonable limits. We ought from time to time to examine all the administrative acts of the Government in order to determine whether they are really necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. We all have human instincts and frailties. We seek to apply ideas which do not always coincide with the ideas of our fellows. For that reason the Labour party believes that the Government will use this unlimited power to give effect to its own political ideals. The prosecution of this war cannot be entirely separated from party politics. Being human, we shall all look at the various subjects that will come under our attention from our own political viewpoint. I have no doubt that the Government will wage the war, having in mind the political principles upon which itspolicy is founded. That would be all right if its administrative acts could beconstantly brought under review in Parliament.
Every section of the community naturally thinks that its own outlook is sound. Consequently we get differences of” opinion. This has been shown very clearly in the last year or two. It will.. be remembered that a year or so ago the Government introduced a national insurance scheme. The Labour party believed that this scheme was not in the best interests of the majority of the people and. it took such means as were available to it, by public meetings and otherwise, to criticize the Government. I venture to say that if this bill is passed in its present form, and similar means are adopted to criticize tho policy of the Government in relation to the war, steps will be taken to make such proceedings illegal. It will be said of those who oppose the Government’s policy, that they are pro-German or anti-British. That was said of many people who, in the last war, honestly opposed the policy of the Government of the day, particularly in relation to conscription. .Other drastic action may also be taken under these powers to prevent, the free expression of opinion in this country.
Ever since the introduction of this bill I have been thinking about the action of the Hughes Government during the last war in placing military officers in the Queensland Government Printing Office in order to ensure that certain sentiments should not be printed in the Queensland Ilansard, and circulated to the .people of the northern State. If the Government obtains the power which it is now seeking can it be denied that similar action may be taken during this war?
It. will be remembered also that during a fairly critical period of the last war, when reinforcements were being called for in large numbers to go to franco, the Government said they were necessary for a certain extra military division that had been formed. Many people in Australia questioned whether that alleged extra division actually existed, and whether the Government was not misleading tlie community in seeking such a large percentage of reinforcements. It was also alleged that by permitting so many mcn to leave Australia, the Government was seriously depleting our manpower. When such statements were published, the Government threatened to exercise its powers under the War Precautions Act to take drastic action against the persons concerned. Actually such action was never taken. I have no doubt that that was because of the fear that ii would cause serious trouble in Australia, but who is to say that under this bill tinattempt will not be made again. lt was proved afterwards that, the alleged extra division did not exist and that the Government had actually misled the people. We dp not desire to get into any difficulties of that, kind in connexion with this war. Therefore, we should noi give to the Government power to take such drastic action unless unquestionable need for it exists.
Whenever the policy of a government is criticized, Cabinet Ministers feel that their prestige is at stake. The whole political procedure of this country rests upon the theory that, tlie political party having the majority of members in the Parliament shall constitute the Government. It naturally follows that the Government will give expression- to the political outlook of its supporters. If its policy is assailed, it naturally does its utmost to support its case. If a government is able to wield such unlimited power as thai sought to lie provided in this bill, it would bc difficult for its opponents to express their views as freely as they should bc permitted to do. We fear that these extreme powers may be used to maintain the prestige of Ministers even though it oan be proved that their policy is not in the -best interests of the country. When a man is fully convinced within himself that the course he is pursuing is the right one, it is often difficult, even under normal conditions, to show him the error of his ways; it would be almost impossible to do so under the abnormal conditions that would prevail if this bill were agreed to in its present form. I, therefore, urge that wo should do our utmost to preserve the real basis of our democracy. We should not invest the Executive of this country with autocratic power which would -practically make it immune from effective criticism. Only by maintaining our free institutions can we hope to preserve the democracy for which we are said to lie fighting in Europe to-day. We all are subject to the influence of environment, and if unlimited power be entrusted to one man he will feel that he has worked things out according to the circumstances, and he will set out to give effect to what he conceives to be the product of his thoughts.
Once one foot is set upon the road the march will be continued. That is why we fear the entrusting of all of the powers contained in this measure to one man or one set of men, all from the same political organization and with the one political purpose. In the calm atmosphere of th is chamber, where we all know each other personally and intimately, Ministers may express sincerely their view as to how these powers will be exercised, but it will be a different story in the hurly-burly outside. There has been mention of the hysteria that accompanies war. Outside all sorts of elements and opinions will influence Ministers, and while they may express here to-day in good faith certain honest convictions, there is the human aspect of the question to be considered. We can, all of us, always find justification for a change of mind. We can argue why we have changed. “ So and so and such and such have happened since we made that declaration, and we feel justified in going back on what we said” can always be said when pledges given in this Parliament in good faith are broken by the Ministers who made them. I point out, too, that this legislation and the regulations which will be framed under it will not be carried out by the Ministers. Those gentlemen will not have a great deal to do with the application of the law, because there is provision for the appointment of persons permanently or temporarily employed in the service of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the Defence Force or in the service of any authority or body constituted by or under any act to carry out the duties that will be entailed in the regulations when they are drafted. We fear that these duties will be placed largely in the hands of military men whose training and associations have been removed from the spirit of democracy. The democratic feeling and atmosphere th at obtains in other walks of life does not obtain in military life. My own personal feelings in regard to the military aspect comes into my consideration. I realize the need for discipline, but I have never felt that I could accept the form in which military discipline is exercised. The military life does give rise to a form of dictatorship because whatever is said by the men on top, even though it may be obviously wrong, is the law.
If a decision is reached it must be observed in spite of the fact that it is a wrong decision and will mean the loss of thousands of lives. That is proved by what is known now of the Gallipoli incident. It has been written that the strategy employed there was not the wisest. So, if these powers be entrusted to military representatives, those persons will exercise against the civilian population the same methods as they use in control of the military forces. Naturally we feel disposed to prevent that.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) dwelt on the dangers of clause 8, which relates to cases which are heard before the courts. The clause sets out that - 8. - (1) If . . . the court before which the proceedings are taken is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the public safety of the Commonwealth or any territory of the Commonwealth so to do, the court -
Again, it is my belief that most of the persons who will lay information against men who have been deemed to have broken the law will be military men. The clause provides opportunity for the hearing of cases behind closed doors, so that- the public will not know what has gone on, and so that there will be no exposure of wrong-doing on the part of those who are entrusted with the application of the regulations.
There is not. much more to be said. All that I ask of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) is that he have regard to the opposition which has emanated from this side. The fears that we have expressed are not exaggerated. They are real fears, based on experience. No matter what assurances the Ministers give as to how they will allow this proposed law to be exercised, Ministers will not administer the law. In spite of the fact that we are at war and that abnormal circumstances arise in war periods the powers that are asked for in this bill are more than the Government requires. Except in respect of a couple of matters to which I have referred - the control of aliens for instance - it is not necessary that the powers. particularly those provided for ih clause 18, should be so wide. We feel entitled to resist them, because we fear that, as this struggle proceeds, that despotism which we are fighting to stamp out in Germany and prevent from overspread ing Europe, will be established in this country. In the light of these facts the Government will have great difficulty in justifying the passing of this legislation.
.- 1. did not intend to speak to this bill to-night, but the matter is of such vital importance to the people of Australia that I shall make my small contribution to the debate. I am the latest living illustration of the fact that this Government probably has not the support of the majority of the electors. The arguments advanced by the Opposition, therefore, should have a great deal of weight. The Opposition has agreed that the Government should be given every support necessary for effectively carrying out this campaign. We realize that we are at Avar and that in order to .prosecute that Avar we must have a united Australia. That is an aspect on which I propose to dwell. When war broke out, there were consultations between the Leader of the Opposion (Mr. Curtin) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), , and I presume that co-operation from the Opposition Avas asked for by the Prime Minister. I have good ground for suspecting that, because it was hinted that a national government would be formed, in which Labour would be represented, in order to conduct this campaign in tlie most effective way. The position taken up by the Opposition was that Labour should in the- better interests of the Australian people, preserve its separate identity as a party. In view of the request from the Government for the Opposition’s co-operation, I feel that it is reasonable to suggest that the Opposition should receive, in return for its offer of full co-operation, the help of the Government, in matters affecting the welfare of the people. In the interests of unity that is very necessary. One of the most essential things at this time is that Ave should have a united Australia. I question whether this unity will he possible if the Government is to adopt the policy that this bill indicates. Many of the provisions of this measure are objected to by members of the Opposition, but it has been shown that we are prepared to go a long way to meet the Government and to give to it the power necessary to carry on the administration of this country under emergency conditions. There is one amendment to which the Opposition has asked the Government to agree, and that is that the duration of this bill shall be limited to a period of twelve months. I have listened attentively to the arguments that the Government spokesmen have advanced against that, but I am unconvinced. It seems to me that Ave are setting out to battle against dictatorship by creating dictators in this country. If the duration of this bill were limited to twelve months Parliament would preserve con trol. At the expiration of that period a measure could be introduced to renew this legislation. The Government’s failure to accept this proposition indicates that it is afraid that during the twelve months in which this legislation would operate, if the Labour party’s suggestion were followed, regulations would be made which would be so repellent to the people of Australia that their renewal would not be permitted. That seems to be the only argument that could possibly be advanced in favour of the refusal to limit the operation of this legislation to twelve mouths. Should there be any other explanation, why does not the Government state it? It would appear that on the other side of the House there are some promising aspirants for a dictatorship. This is a. vital matter, for if it becomes known that the Government has introduced legislation designed to restrict the liberties of the people, and has forced that legislation through Parliament, despite the protests of the representatives of the workers, there will be much dissatisfaction amongst the people. I therefore appeal to the Assistant Minister to agree to place a limit, on the operation of this legislation.
.- I remember well when the War Precautions Act - the parent of this bill - was in operation during the last Avar. In some directions this bill goes further, for itwould appear that, the Government doubts the loyalty of the people of Australia.
– I think that that provision applies only in respect of aliens.
– Clause 15 reads -
If any question arises in any proceedings under any regulation made in pursuance of this act or to which sub-section (2) of section 7 of this act applies, or under any order, rule or by-law made in pursuance of any such regulation, or with reference to anything done or proposed to bc done under any such regulation, order, rule or by-law, whether any person- is an alien or not, or is .an alien of a particular class or not, the onus of proving that that person is not an alien or, as the case may bc, is not an alien of that class, shall lie upon that person.
All that is necessary in order to secure a conviction is the laying of a charge. A good deal of opposition has been expressed to the provisions relating to the making of regulations. In order to ensure that no unjust regulations shall be promulgated when Parliament is not sitting, Parliament should be kept in session. We do not know what may happen from clay to day during the period of war. There has been some mention of the Government not having a majority in this House, but I should prefer that the present minority Government should carry on, rather than that some who are striving for Cabinet positions should be admitted into the Ministry. If members of the Country party joined the Government, the regulations would be even more harsh than if- left in the hands of the present Administration. In that event, attempts would be made, perhaps successfully, to eliminate all of the provisions restricting profits. That would be one of the prices that members of the Country party would demand for their assistance. If the Government can carry on without the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and some others of his party as members of the Cabinet, I hope that it will do so until an appeal is made to the people.
Under this legislation, as under the War Precautions Act, the Government, could, by reason of its power to muzzle tho press, censor the speeches delivered in this Parliament, During the last war the then honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) made statements in Parliament regarding the treatment of certain people in Now Guinea, and the landing of troops at Gallipoli. His remarks were not reported in the press, but when later the then Governor-General made similar statements, they were given wide publicity. The Government has already commenced the censorship of press items, and I imagine that statements made in this House will also be censored.
So little is said about the control of prices that one is inclined to doubt the sincerity of the Government in this connexion.
– The powers given are fairly wide.
– The provision in that direction is so meagre in comparison with the provisions to deal with people who speak out of their turn, that it would appear that the desire of the Government is to kill politically some of its opponents. Far greater consideration seems to have been given to the control of the Government’s political opponents than to the restraint of men who will attempt to make undue profits out of the national necessity. There should be wider power in the bill to ensure that no restrictions shall be imposed upon our civil liberties and that the activities of combines and trusts, which more than any other body operate to the detriment of public safety and national security during a. time of war, shall be curbed. We know how prices have skyrocketed in the past. The Government allowed profiteering to be practised, and the workers were always chasing the elusive high cost of commodities by applying to the Arbitration Court, which was found to be an exceedingly slow-moving body. I well remember that during the last war women had to submit to a minute cross-examination by the court as to the clothing they wore and the meals they ate each day. The embarrassment caused to some of them was horrible to witness.
Clause 8 of the bill provides for secret trials. Under it even an accused person could be prohibited from disclosing the evidence given against him and even the penalty imposed on him. The press being muzzled and censored, we would not hear why a person was charged and what his penalty was, although we would know that he had been taken away and had probably been shot. The clause says that -
If the court before which the proceedings are taken is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth or any territory of the Commonwealth so to do, the court may give directions that throughout or during any part of the proceedings such personsor classes of persons as the court determines shall be excluded, and may give directions prohibiting or restricting the disclosure of information with respect to the proceedings.
That is quite clear. If summarily dealt with, a fine of £100 or imprisonment for six months, or both, may be imposed ; but, according to clause 10, if prosecuted upon indictment, the person charged would be liable to any term of imprisonment or any other punishment, possibly even appearance before a firing squad. One does not know how far the matter might be carried if the military were allowed to assume control, as might happen, for the power may be delegated to a military officer as well as to a police officer, a. Commonwealth officer, or a Minister. Let us consider in the light of the provisions of clause 13 bow far the matter may be carried. The clause reads -
If a person suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, an offence against this act, is arrested under the provisions of this section, a report of the fact and circumstances shall forthwith be made to the Attorney-General or to a person appointed in that behalf by the Attorney-General, and -
What is a “reasonable time”? Complaints were lodged in this Parliament 25 years ago in respect of persons who were arrested and against whom no charge was laid, but who, nevertheless, languished in prison in New Guinea for six months. Such a person has no redress ; he cannot take any action against the Commonwealth for wrongful arrest. Sub-clause 3 of clause 13 merely says that if the Governor-General - in other words the Cabinet - is satisfied that any arrest is made without any reasonable cause, he may award such compensation in respect thereof as he considers reasonable. He may award a little extra on the prison allowance, which is something like 1/2d. a day. During a period of national crisis, no Australian would so criticize his country as to convey to the enemy the impression that discontent existed, nor would he in any way jeopardize the efforts of his country to prosecute the war to a satisfactory conclusion. Tho Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when introducing the bill, said that all the clauses after clause 5 were merely machinery clauses. That is perfectly true; but such machinery may operate. Under tho provisions of clause 16, an indictment may be laid, and sentence may be imposed under the Crimes Act or the Supply and Development Act, as well as under this act, because the powers given under this act or the regulations made under it, are to be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any other powers exercisable apart from this act. I contend that clause 18 allows regulations to be framed which will violate any act, on the statutebook. It says -
A regulation made under this act shall . . have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent’ therewith contained i” any enactment other than this act, or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this act.
I should like the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to say whether, in his opinion, my interpretation of that provision is the correct one.
– If for the word <: violate “ the honorable member substitutes the word “ overrides “, I shall agree with him.
– Well, it violates when it overrides. I see no need for this measure. It is unwarranted ; it is extremely harsh; it will take away the civil liberties of our people, and in no way will help us to prosecute this war to a successful conclusion. That is my honest and sincere opinion, and I shall do everything that is possible to see that the bill is amended in the committee stage. Although, at the particular request of this side of the House, it specifies that nothing shall authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military, air force, or industrial conscription, we do not know from day to day what may happen. I again warn the Government that certain members of the Country party are anxious to rejoin the Cabinet, and if they are admitted they will again endeavour to dictate the policy to be adopted. Should that occur we know what will happen under the clause which I have just cited. The first Lyons Ministry introduced a wheat bounty bill, in which provision- was made for the payment of a bounty to wheat-growers who were not in receipt of a taxable income for a period of twelve months prior to the date on which the bounty was paid, but immediately members of the Country party joined the Ministry they demanded the removal of that provision, so that they could all participate. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, said that that measure was for the needy and not for the greedy.
– -I ask the honorable member to discuss the subject-matter of the bill.
– I am endeavouring to do so, and am showing the way in which certain provisions of this bill would be administered if another coalition government was formed. If the so-called rebels of tho Country party were admitted to the Ministry objectionable tactics would be resorted to. Certain members of the Country party, who were once associated with the Ministry, would demand not only the removal of the price-fixing features of this measure, but also that the youths- of this country be conscripted for overseas service. Young men whom this country cannot provide with a job would be asked to fight for it, The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) stated that if the Government tries to force conscription upon the youths of this country for service overseas he will take the consequences of this measure. He will not he alone in that respect, because I shall assist him. Some of these youths for whom work cannot be provided could, under this measure, be brought before a secret court and the onus of proof of innocence would bc upon -them, which is contrary to established British principles.
– I have listened patiently, and, I -hope, intelligently, to the contributions which have been made to the debate on this measure.
I do not quarrel at ail with what has been said in many respects. The Government was perfectly frank in its presentation of the bill to the House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in effect that he asked the House to give the Government plenary powers, with a few exceptions, because of the conditions in which we find ourselves. I suppose that it all depends upon the approach which one makes to the subject matter of the measure. I agree that in normal times it would be unpardonable for any democratic country to ask its parliament to delegate to the executive one-tenth of the powers now sought; but these are not normal times. I have some sense of a feeling of unreality about this debate. After all, we are at war, « nd I fail to see how an executive government - how any government - can carry on efficiently in view of the problems which may at any time eventuate unless these plenary powers are entrusted to the Executive. I realize that there may be abuses when plenary powers are delegated to any person or body. I do not dispute that. This bill purports to delegate the most plenary powers to the Ministry, and I know that during the previous war many abuses of the powers conferred under the War Precautions Act were perpetrated.
– The powers are to bc delegated not only to Ministers but also to others.
– [ agree that the delegation of powers by an executive to any ultra-parliamentary body is to be deprecated, but in the emergency with which we are confronted - an emergency which I venture to say many of us have not yet fully appreciated - there can be no disputing the fact that the only way in which this or any other government can carry on efficiently for the benefit of the people, and to protect them against the horrors of war, is by Parliament vesting complete power in the Executive. My views in normal times agree substantially with those expressed by the members of the Opposition. I would be most reluctant indeed to take away from Parliament one vestige of its powers were not a state of emergency dictating the necessity. It is because of that necessity that no apology is needed in asking Parliament to pass this measure. 1 regret that a bill such as this is necessary, and that honorable members have had to sit into the early hours of the morning to debate it. That is due, not to any obstinacy on the part of the Government, or to a desire to rush the measure through, but solely because time is of the essence of the contract. We need to be armed with the authority to defend this country in an emergency.
I shall now direct my attention to some of the criticisms which have been offered. First, in regard, to the delegation of general powers. In my opening remarks I referred to the. necessity, as the Government sees it, for such powers to be given to the Executive. Indeed they were fully referred to in the second-reading speech of the Prime Minister. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) stated by interjection, it is true that extensive powers have been conferred upon the Executive and that the Government has also gone further and is delegating powers to others. There was no attempt on the part, of the Prime Minister to disguise that fact, and it would have been useless to have attempted to do so, because it is clearly stated in the bill.
– He did not mention it until I interjected.
– The Prime Minister indicated that this is a delegation of powers far beyond those required in ordinary times. He stated that in time of war - a point which was conceded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and other members of the Opposition - Ministers will be fully occupied with the affairs of State. In these circumstances other bodies have to be set up. May I cite some of them? The Prime Minister mentioned the pricefixing committee. There will also be a shipping control board with very extensive powers, a wool-marketing board, and various boards for the marketing overseas of different kinds of produce, the pooling of which will have to be controlled. TherE will also be committees of finance and other bodies which in turn will have to deal with matters which come under the scope of the subject matter entrusted to them to deal with by orders and by by-laws.
– What will be the standing of the committees entrusted with power to make orders and by-laws?
– If the honorable member refers to the personal calibre and qualifications of the men appointed, I may say that much will depend upon the subject-matters entrusted to them. In theory this measure gives power to delegate the legislative powers of this Parliament to any man in the street, but it must be looked at through the eyes of reality. No parliament and no government such as this Government would think of delegating power to others unless it was satisfied that they would be exercised reasonably. In the delegation of such powers there is always the inherent possibility of abuse.
– Should not Parliament be given an opportunity to correct such abuses?
– Again it appears that it is the viewpoint from which we see it. We are apt to think that the problems which will present themselves during the war can be- gauged by ordinary standards and our viewpoint in normal times, but I believe that before many months have passed we shall be faced with problems which at the moment are beyond our comprehension and are not within our vision. Because of the rapidity with which decisions must be made and machinery set up. to deal with special problems, the rather slow progress of parliamentary procedure is not suitable. Emergencies may arise at any moment when power has to be given and if Parliament were called together there would possibly be lengthy debate and unnecessary delay. Authority must be taken immediately to implement legislation. The viewpoint which I have advanced is not in accord with that of the Opposition; but I am satisfied that in this respect it is the only rational view to take, having regard to the paramount responsibilities of the Government to protect this country in whatever circumstances may arise.
It has been suggested that sub-clause 7 of clause 5 has no real purpose at all - that it means nothing because it gives nothing. I maintain, however, that it ensures to this Parliament something which it should possess, namely, that the plenary power of regulation conferred by this bill shall not permit the Executive to make any regulation which would impose any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service, or any form of industrial conscription, or make provision for trials by courts martial of persons not subject to naval, military or air force law.
– The Government could do it under other acts.
– I know of no act under which the Government is empowered to impose conscription for compulsory service overseas. There already exists under the Defence Act, which has been on the statute-book for many years, power to impose compulsory service in respect of home defence. Do I understand that the House desires it to be made clear that the imposition of compulsory service, &c, is to be for overseas defence ?
– We prefer the present unlimiting statement.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition prefer that this subclause be omitted from the bill?
– No. This sub-clause guarantees that the Government will not, by means of regulations under this bill, enforce compulsory service overseas.
– But the Government may enforce compulsory military training under other acts.
– Yes, but there is no act under which it can enforce service overseas. Were this sub-clause not inserted, there would exist power by regulation, if the Executive so desired, to impose conscription for overseas service, military or industrial. That cannot be disputed. When honorable members say that they are receiving nothing in this sub-clause, they should remember that this provision is a very definite safeguard that the regulation-making, power will not be used to compel men to serve overseas.
– Will the Minister say further that, in order to impose compulsory overseas service, the Government, having -passed this bill, would have to ask Parliament to pass another bill?
– That is unquestionably my opinion. The Government is making it plain that in no circumstances can any man be compelled to serve overseas unless by the direction of Parliament.
– Has the Government any intention of asking Parliament to confer that power?
– The Prime Minister made hia intentions on this subject very plain this, afternoon, and I commend .his observations to the honorable member.
The chief criticism directed against clause 8 was contained in the thoughtful speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who objected to the power proposed to bc taken in this bill to hold inquiries in camera. That power is unquestionably provided for, but J suggest that, while in ordinary circumstances it would be unwise to confer such power, in time of war there may bc many reasons why, in exceptional cases, no information should be made public regarding what takes place before a court. For instance, a man may be charged with stealing a military secret, and, in order to prove that he had stolen it, it may be necessary to produce confidential and secret documents.
– It would only be necessary for the court to make an order that the documents were not to be published.
– I do not know where the honorable member got that idea from. He should know that any document that is produced as evidence in court may be discussed by anyone.
– Tho Minister forgets that the Government has ta.ken censorship powers under which newspapers may bo prevented from publishing anything of that kind.
– That provision might not be sufficient. In a time of war the utmost precautions must bo taken. It might even be that the reporter is not above suspicion. I have no desire to give the court power to run riot in respect of this matter. I am prepared to agree that the word “ necessary “ should be substituted for the word “ expedient,” so that the clause will read - . . the court before which the proceedings are taken is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of public safety for tho defence of the Commonwealth or any territory of the Commonwealth . . .
– Under this clause even the accused could be prevented from disclosing anything.
– It is wide enough to do that, but we should not seek to judge the value of any enactment by showing that it covers even an absurd position.
– Under this provision, the press may be prevented from disclosing what is placed before the court. Is it absurd to say that the accused might disclose as much as the press?
– It is not absurd to suggest that. It may well happen that, in a given case, the accused may know more than appears in the evidence.
– Then he may first of nil be convicted of the offence with which he was originally charged, and then convicted subsequently on a charge of disclosing information revealed in the court.
– That is so, but they would be two separate offences. There would be the original offence, and then the offence of disclosing information the publication of which was inimical to the Commonwealth .
Clause 13 has also come in for a considerable amount of criticism. Sub-clause 1 of clause 13 is as follows -
Any person who is found committing an offence against this act, or who is suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, such an offence, may be arrested without warrant, by any constable or Commonwealth officer acting in the course of his duty as such, or by any person thereto authorized by the Minister, in the same manner as a person who is found committing a breach of the peace may, at common law, be arrested by any constable or person.
In common law, as the provision suggests, a person found committing a breach of the peace may be arrested, but great difficulty has always been encountered regarding the extent to which a police officer may deal with a person who has not yet commenced to commit an offence. In the taking of precautions in time of war, it is very necessary toarrest the person before he does the damage. The power taken in sub-clause 1 is wide but necessary.
Sub-clause 2 has been criticized because it provides that a person may be detained for a “ reasonable time “ before a charge is laid against him, and the “ reasonable time “ is not defined. The sub-clause reads -
If a person suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, an offence against this act, is arrested under ‘ the provisions of this section, a report of the fact and circumstances shall forthwith be made to the Attorney-General or to a person appointed in that behalf by the Attorney-General, and -
if no charge is laid against the suspected person within a reasonable time, he shall be released from detention ;
I have no objection to a specific time limit being placed in the sub-clause, but I warn the House that, when a specific time is fixed, there is a grave danger that, in every instance, the time limit will be exhausted. I suggest ten days as the maximum period that should elapse in any given instance between the arrest and the laying of the charge. The reason for “ a reasonable time “ appearing in the clause was to provide for a case in which, for instance, a man is arrested under this particular section and is not brought to trial. Under the law he has the right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus. I know very well that that right can be taken from him under the powers conferred by this legislation.
– I am glad that the Assistant Minister admits that.
– There is no question of keeping something secret, nor is it a matter of extracting information from me. I am. simply explaining the exact position. However, if the honorable member feels that there is a danger that the right of an accused to apply to the court may be taken from him I am prepared to accept a time limit. Then, if within ten days a man is not charged, he will, by virtue of this sub-clause be entitled to be released.
Some honorable members opposite addressed themselves to clause 15 which throws the onus of proof, in a given class of case only, upon the accused. I venture to say that no honorable member could challenge the equity and justice of that provision in the emergency in which we now find ourselves. The onus of proof is thrown upon a man charged with being an alien to prove that he is not an alien. In a time of war I cannot think of anything more necessary; nor can I think of anything more absurd than that the obligation should be thrown upon the Government to prove that a man is an alien when be comes from beyond our shores and such proof is not attainable by the Government. On the other hand, the accused has by virtue of association and documents an opportunity to give evidence in respect of such a charge. This is the only kind of case involved in this clause, and, consequently, it would be unreasonable not to insert this provision.
– Seeing that not only the nationality but also the property of such an accused might be at stake, surely the onus should be on the Crown.
– If the onus were on the Crown it could, in many cases, never be discharged. One might be absolutely certain that a person is an alien but not one shred of strict legal evidence might be available to prove that he is. When a man is able to prove his country of birth, and association, and in many cases possesses documents to support his proof, I suggest that it would be wholly unreasonable not to insert a provision of this kind.
One honorable member opposite asked for an explanation of clause 16 which reads -
The meaning of this clause is plain. The powers conferred by this measure are to be superimposed upon any other powers which the Executive might otherwise possess.
Attention has also been directed to clause 17 which reads. -
Honorable members will appreciate that under clause 5 sub-clause 3 general power is taken to delegate, but there we must delegate specifically to a person, and, generally speaking, that is wholly inconvenient. It would be unreasonable, and in many cases ineffective, to ask a Minister himself, in the varying and quickly changing circumstances which will arise during the war, to exercise certain powers in different parts of Australia because the essence of the matter might be urgency. For example, in a given area it might be thought admirable that entry should be prohibited except to a limited class of people. It might be necessary to declare certain areas to be dangerous, or it might be necessary to evacuate the civil population from certain areas. These things seem far away at the moment, but they may be the realities of to-morrow. Such circumstances might arise in any part of Australia, and consequently this power of delegation is provided. It is a reasonable provision.
Again, in clause IS - effect of regulations, &c. - honorable members are informed precisely of the extent of the powers sought. This clause enlarges the powers given under Clause 5.
– This is a power to amend and, perhaps, repeal statutes of this Parliament.
– I do not dispute that. The power is there; it is plenary. I may give an example of what happened during the last. war. Honorable tol members realize that many acts cannot be done unless certain conditions are complied with. In certain cases, for instance, status conditions are imposed in this respect. In this connexion I instance the moratorium regulations during the last war, which were made under the War Precautions Act 1914. If such regulations were made to-day they would be in relation to bankruptcy legislation which operates in respect of the whole of Australia. If under that legislation a demand were made by a creditor by service of notice on a debtor who owed over £50, and the demand were not complied with the creditor would be entitled to get a sequestration order. But the moratorium legislation would override, and the regulations in that instance made under this legislation would prevail notwithstanding provision in the Bankruptcy Act or any act.
– The Government could secure that power by applying to Parliament for special legislation.
– I agree. However, I cited that case merely as an example.
– Another example would be that the Government could take power in pursuance of this clause to alter the franchise upon which honorable members are elected to this Parliament.
– I have conceded that under this legislation, as under the War Precautions Act, the plenary powers given are the complete powers of this Parliament. That was so under the War Precautions Act, and the position has not been minimized except to a limited degree under this legislation. However, I give the instance which I have just cited for the purpose only of snowing that unless this power be given there will be an impediment upon the proper exercise of the powers of government in a time of war on each occasion on which a case of this kind arises.
In respect of clause 19, which provides . that this legislation shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, a request has been made to limit the period to twelve months. It is not out of any sense of obstinacy, or unwillingness to comply with a reasonable demand, that the Government is unable to accept that limitation. We do not know in what emergency we might find ourselves at the particular time an enactment might require renewal. Because of that imponderable factor it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of a government in a. time of war not to ask for and obtain extension of legislation of this kind for the duration of the war and for some period afterwards. It is very .easy to look at this matter through normal eyes and refer to the fact that the Victorian Parliament has limited the operation of its legislation of this kind to twelve months. Irrespective of the status of the Victorian Parliament, I point out that on this Parliament alone devolves the obligation of defending this country. In normal times, perhaps, the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition - that we should have these vast powers renewed when the occasion demanded it - could not be resisted ; but when we visualize the present crisis through the eyes of reality we realise that possibly at the time we must seek renewal of these powers the conditions which then exist might prevent the assembling of Parliament quickly.
– In my view the possibility of war on the shores of this country is by no means remote.
– What will happen to Parliament then?
– It depends upon the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The point I emphasize is that it is the obligation of the Government to visualize all possibilities, and it would be wrong for a government charged with the defence of this country in a time of war not to anticipate the conditions under which we might find ourselves when we sought a renewal of our powers. Those conditions might place obstacles in the way of such a renewal.
– The Assistant Minister’s imagination has run riot.
– It is as easy for the honorable member to say that as it is for me to say that it is the right thing to do. Furthermore, there are two other factors, although, perhaps, they are not wholly relevant to this discussion. First, under our Constitution Parliament must meet once a year, and, secondly, the life of this Parliament has approximately one year to run. Under our Constitution we must go to the people within three years after the first meeting of Parliament. No danger exists, therefore, that the people will have powers taken away from them for an indefinite period, because in the end we must go back to the people. Then, if the administration has not been ‘ such as the people desire, the people will give their judgment.
– What about the Assistant Minister’s own argument should we happen to be in a state of war when that time arrives?
– If we were then in a state of war we should still be obliged under the Constitution to go to the people.
– What rot!
– If an emergency arose, and you could not have .an election, then I suppose in time of war the honorable member would scrap all parliamentary government. It would be wise, before making such a comment as the . honorable member has just made, for him to look at the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. The Prime Minister has indicated that the fear in the mind of the Opposition is one which may well be stilled. There has been no attempt on his part, and there will be no attempt on the part of the Government, not to meet the Parliament. The right honorable gentleman indicated quite definitely this morning and, as the Leader of the Opposition said, quite properly so, that the Government would meet the Parliament at reasonable intervals to give an account of its stewardship.
– What is a reasonable interval?
– I do not give any static period. I merely say that the Prime Minister has indicated quite definitely that he will meet the Parliament at proper intervals.
– What is a proper interval?
– I do not intend to indulge in a metaphysical discussion with the honorable member. Some criticism has been directed to the urgency with which this, bill was brought down. It was not brought down with the same urgency as was exhibited in Great Britain. During the last war, a similar bill was introduced within eight or nine weeks after the outbreak of war - I think it received Royal assent on or about the 2nd November. The bill now before us seeks from, the Parliament the same powers in substance as were sought in the National Emergency Bill, which has been passed through the British Parliament, a democratic parliament from which we have our birth. I recommend the bill for the acceptance of the House as urgently necessary for the defence of this country.
That, the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr.. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) Subject to this section, the GovernorGeneral may make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the Commonwealth, and in particular - and for prescribing all matters which, by this act, are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for the more effectual prosecution of the present war, or for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
– This is the central clause of this bill. It details certain specific powers which are to be given to the Government and it then proceeds to vest the Government with the power to do anything it likes, provided that it does not infringe the positive provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. It will have the power to do anything that can be done at present by the State Parliaments or by the Commonwealth Parliament. We are indebted to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender), for the candour with which he revealed to us the full intent of the bill, which to some extent was glossed over in the Prime Minister’s speech. The bill is to supersede- the legislatures of Australia by the power of the Commonwealth Executive. I move -
That the following words be omitted: - “ and for prescribing all matters which, by . this Act, are required, or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for the more effectual prosecution of the present war, and for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.”
– That would emasculate the bill.
– It would leave the Government with the specific powers it asks for, and divest it of the powers which this Parliament should retain. If the clause stand as printed we shall surrender to the Executive the whole of the powers not only of this Parliament but also of the parliaments of the States. I submit that is probably the most dangerous act we shall ever do in our lives. This is the most significant and important decision we shall ever be called upon to make, and it is a great pity that we are called upon to deal with this bill in the small hours of the morning, and that the House was not called together earlier for the purpose of contemplating this legislation. Under this clause, the Assistant Treasurer has, I think, admitted that the franchise upon which this Parliament is elected may be altered. We may not be able to give a parliament a life of five years, but that is only because the Commonwealth Constitution prevents it. All of the political and civil rights of the people of this country can be altered at the will of the Executive under the powers proposed to be conferred on it in this clause. I am not one of those who say that we can trust the present Ministers and that we cannot trust their successors - the present Ministers have given us no reason to repose confidence in them - but I admire the Assistant Treasurer for his frank statement of his reaction towards these things. He believes that at this time the Executive should have power to govern the country subject only to the positive prohibitions of the Commonwealth Constitution. I think that that is dangerous, and I propose to divide the committee upon this matter. I propose to ask the committee not to entrust this Government or any government with the wide dragnet powers that are conferred by the concluding words of sub-clause 1.
Mi-. ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [4.44 a.m.]. - I wish to draw attention to the provisions of sub-clause 1 relating to the property and buildings of enemy subjects, and to persons having enemy associations or connexions. Many German migrants who have been settled in Australia for very many years have given loyal allegiance to the governments of this country. They have in every respect been worthy citizens and active producers. The Government has claimed that we are not waging war on the German people as such, but it appears to me that the provisions of Clause 5 will permit the confiscation of all the worldly possessions of some worthy people. The clause also deals with naturalized persons who may find themselves most unjustly in serious trouble. I therefore ask for some modification of these provisions. Does tho Minister visualize what might happen to some of these people?
– Even a naturalized person may in some cases carry on intrigue against the Government.
– I am not speaking of persons of that class. I have in mind loyal and peaceful citizens. During the last war every person who was even suspected of enemy origin because he bore a foreign name found himself in some difficulty. A degree of hysteria is abroad in the public mind at such times as these. Unfortunately, this power will go beyond the Minister, for it may be delegated to other persons who, though not answerable directly to this Parliament, will have authority to make orders, rules, or by-laws which will in some cases affect, the worldly possessions of individuals who ave only very remotely of enemy origin, and may even be naturalized. I wish to know whether the persons who are brought under these orders, rules, or by-laws, and whose property may be liable to confiscation, will be given the opportunity to answer a definite charge before a properly constituted court.
– The honorable member may rest assured that the regulations will make provision to protect, naturalized aliens whose property may be endangered.
– I now wish to know whether such persons will be charged in an ordinary court or whether special courts will be established for the purpose. Under clause 18 the Government will have power to set up special tribunals. Is it -intended that cases of the kind to which I am referring shall be dealt with in the ordinary courts or in special tribunals? Further, will the individuals concerned have a right of appeal?
– I cannot give the honorable member a detailed answer to his questions because the regulations have not yet been framed, but my general answer to his observations is that no attempt has been made by the Government, nor is any attempt presently intended to be made, against aliens, excepting those who may be carrying on subversive activities against the Government. The honorable member may rest assured that the utmost care will be taken to see that naturalized subjects are not dealt with in an arbitrary way.
– I appreciate the observations of the Minister but it must be borne in mind that the number of settlers in Australia who may be, in some degree, of alien origin, is very considerable.
– The honorable member may be assured that many of the people to whom he refers will not be interfered with in any way.
– I should now like t” know what is proposed to be done with the property of which certain enemy aliens may be dispossessed?
– Measures are already in preparation to deal with this subject eis it was dealt with during the last war. A custodian of enemy property will be appointed who will determine whether confiscated property shall be realized on or treated in some other way.
– I now wish to obtain some information concerning the persons to whom will be delegated the authority to make the orders, rules, or by-laws which, it may be assumed, will cover every conceivable form of activity under this bill. Has the Assistant Treasurer considered whether it would not be preferable to provide that, although certain other persons may be authorized to draft these orders, rules or bylaws, the Minister only should be authorized to issue them? I anticipate that the honorable gentleman will say that a Minister will have the power of disallowance. Is it likely that that power will be exercised before or after the orders, rules, or by-laws come into operation ?
– It is very likely that the power of disallowance may frequently be exercised after the orders, rules, or by-laws have come into operation.
– In the circumstances, I see considerable danger in this procedure. I submit that it would be highly desirable to provide that these orders, rules, or by-laws shall be promulgated only by the Minister. Other pei sons may be authorized to draft them, but the responsibility of promulgating them should rest with the Minister himself. Otherwise numerous difficulties and a great deal of friction and discontent are sure to arise.
– The purpose of subclause 4 is to enable the Minister to disallow any order, rule, or by-law that may. have been made. This would probably be done after cases of hardship have been brought under notice.
– 1 suggest that action a t that time is too late. All of these orders, rides, and by-laws should be subject to approval by the Minister before promulgation. It may be said that the Minister will not have time to devote to these details. It is true that he might find it difficult to set aside time to draft them, but if they were drafted by some one else it would not take the Minister very long to determine whether it is desirable that they should be issued. Unless this is done, a great deal of disturbance is likely to occur. It must be remembered that not every person in the community is able to get the ear of a member of “Parliament or some other influential individual who can bring a complaint under the notice of the Minister.
– What the honorable member is suggesting would be equivalent to no delegation of power.
– I do not think so. I feel convinced that the course that 1 a in suggesting would be much more effective than that set out in the bill and I ask that earnest consideration he given to my proposal.
– We are all agreed that individuals of enemy origin who engage in subversive activities should be dealt with .promptly, but many people of enemy nationality in Australia, both naturalized ornot naturalized, are loyal and peaceable citizens of this country and they should not bo harried. Instances have occurred already of individuals not of enemy nationality having been thrown into internment camps.
– I know . of some instances of the kind, and the Governmenthas given strict orders to prevent any repetition of them.
– Not every individual in the community is able to get his grievance placed before a Minister promptly. I wish to know whether satisfactory safeguards are being arranged so that even the humblest enemy national in this country will receive considerate treatment, provided that he is not suspected of subversive action against the Government.
– I give honorable members my personal undertaking and also an undertaking on behalf of the Government that the regulations will be framed so as to protect the rights of such persons.
– I accept the assur ance of the Assistant Treasurer which, if carried out, will prevent a great deal of injustice.
– It is perfectly true that the Minister gave an assurance that the regulations will be so drafted that justice can be done to those persons who may subsequently be found to have been improperly detained or detained without adequate reason.- I do not mean unlawfully detained, because apparently it is lawful for any persons to be detained if an officer of the Commonwealth thinks proper. Even on appeal to courts, it has been held in respect of legislation of this character that a new regulation can be made under which the person can continue to be held. As a matter of fact, there can be no adequate redress byappeals to the courts. That is one of the things that the committee may think perfectly proper, although I hesitate to think that that would be its view. But in passing this legislation the committee should be quite clear that it is depriving citizens of this country of the protection of the courts against unjustifiable detention. I remind the committee that in a case referred to in Professor Scott’s history of Australia’s part in the last war the Victorian Supreme Court held that a person should be released. He was released and was immediately re-arrested under another regulation approved the week before, that is to say, approved while the case was proceeding in the Victorian Supreme Court. The -government of the day had reason to fear that the verdict of that Supreme Court would be favorable to the person who was being detained, and made a new regulation with retrospective effect. Despite this the Victorian Supreme Court granted the issue of a second writ of habeas corpus.
Professor Scott’s work states -
Upon the Commonwealth Government appealing to the High Court against the first decision, the hearing in the lower court was postponed; and on September 13th the full bench of the High Court (Chief Justice Griffith, and Justices Isaacs, Higgins, Duffy, Powers, and Rich) delivered a unanimous judgment, declaring that the authority givenby Parliament for the making of the regulation was sufficiently plain, and affirming the right of the Minister on the return of the writ to withhold his reasons.
That is to say Parliament had given to the Executive absolute and complete power to make regulations. As the result of the complete surrender by the Parliament to the Executive of this right of detention over persons, if the Government desired to hold a particular person all that it had to do was to shape a regulation providing that that particular person be held. Regardless of all equity and common law, it remains entirely within the authority of the Government to detain a citizen. This is my complaint: I deny that the Minister has any knowledge of the facts associated with the case of any particular individual. The matter does not come to him until days or weeks after the person has been arrested. We know very well that many of the officers associated with the carrying out of the War Precautions Act during the last war were persons who made no pretence of impartial discharge of their duties. Many of them showed themselves as nakedly and unashamedly political- partisans. That is a perfectly fair and straight statement of the case, and I affirm that it is important that we safeguard the country against a repetition of that sort of thing.
Now upon the points raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I would point out to the committee that the powers specified in Clause 5 would appear adequately to cover any present conceivable contingency that the Government may have in mind in order adequately to prepare, at this stage at any rate, for the effective defence of the Commonwealth. If there is any other aspect of this matter that Ministers can think of, they have only to state it to the committee, and it can be reduced to a specific declaration and inserted in the bill. But Ministers ask Parliament not only for power to make regulations in respect of specified matters, in the belief that that is necessary, but also for a general power to make regulations in respect of other matters which at present they do not contemplate at all, but which iii the months or years ahead they may regard as requiring to be dealt with. If that be the case, there should be some progressive legislation dealing with these matters and the conduct of the war generally. To the extent that the present statement of what is necessary for the defence of this country is submitted to this Parliament, it is reasonable for the Government to ask for power to deal with these matters. Even though I do not agree with the principle I quite understand it. But I cannot understand asking for general power to deal with this, that ;ind the other thing. There is a specified list of things for the defence of Australia, and the Government says that it needs power to make regulations to cover varying subjects which come within what it conceives to be essential features of the present defence of this Commonwealth. I can understand that. The Government is given power to make regulations concerning those things. Is that not enough at this juncture? We shall have different regulations concerning the present circumstances. Later, in the light of experience other subjects may emerge. Lv it not reasonable for the Government to come to the Parliament and ask for authority to include those additional subjects by amendment of this measure? The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) does not do that and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) does not suggest that it should be done. What Ministers propose is that they shall also have power to deal with any conceivable thing for the duration of this war, however long it may last, and six months thereafter. The impropriety of that is further shown by the presence in another part of the bill of a clause which enables the Government by regulations to repeal statutes of this Parliament or amend them to have an effect upon the life of the community quite contrary to the intention of the legislature. The example cited by the Assistant Treasurer is that we have passed a bankruptcy law which would prevent the Government from having a moratorium regulation in operation unless that very clause was in the proposed statute. But there is a right -way to deal with that. If the honorable gentleman wants a moratorium, which is a. tremendously important thing, he should ask for specific authority to deal with that subject. It seems to me that the clause by giving to the Government, power to make regulations equally concerning subjects which it has not particularized and those which have been particularized, is, in fact, as I said earlier, a complete abdication of the power of this Parliament,
– Hitlerism !
– That is what it means.
– The Ministry wants a clean sweep.
– Yes, it wants a clean sweep, not only of those things that are not. now the subject of law of the Commonwealth, but also of those things that have been decided already by Parliament. When I say to the honorable gentleman that the power given to him in this way to deal with all sorts of subjects will enable him to alter the franchise of this Parliament, he says “Yes, but you can trust us not to do it”. I remind the honorable’ gentleman that there was a government in this Commonwealth which endeavoured to pass a law which had as its purpose a request to the British Parliament to amend the Commonwealth Constitution Act. I have not the least doubt that had that legislation gone through the Senate - all sorts of jugglery were practised in order to get it through that chamber - it is certain that the British Parliament would have carried it, for, from its point of view, the act would have been a. mere formality giving effect to the expressed will of the Commonwealth Parliament. Therefore, it is within the bounds of possibility that even the Constitution will be amended during the currency of this war without reference to the people of Australia, for there sits within this Government at this very hour the man who started the move that, I have indicated, which would have succeeded, but for the fact that two Tasmanian senators, members of the old Liberal party, regarded the proposal as so outrageous that they voted without hesitation against it.
– I believe that the operation of the Commonwealth Constitution lies unquestionably with the people of Australia.
– So do I, but the honorable gentleman knows that in time of war if this Parliament were to pass : a proposal for the British Parliament to amend the Constitution Act, it would probably be so amended. I do not know what the Statute of Westminster does to protect us in that regard. I do not think that it does anything.
– The Statute of Westminster has not been adopted yet.
– No, but even if wo had adopted that, statute I do not think that it would protect us because the steps taken and specified in this volume mak”3 it clear that there can be no limit, as the court itself has said, or questioning of the validity of the regulations made in pursuance of such legislation as this. That is the real thing for the committee to keep in mind. That, is why the honorable member for Bourke, who objects to government by executive act, says that at least this Parliament should withhold from the Government power to make regulations concerning matters that are not specified in the bill. That is fair and reasonable. I accept the principle as a result of the voting on the second reading that honorable members desire to give to the Government tremendous powers m deal with this situation, but the Government should tell us’ at least what are the subjects in respect of which regulations are sought. It has enumerated some of them.
– I do not see mention of the establishment of shipping control committees or finance committees.
– Oh, yes. I cite for example, clause 5 sub-clause 1 d -
For prescribing the conditions (including the times, places and prices) of the disposal or use of any property, goods, articles or things of any kind.
If the honorable gentleman says that he can think of a few things, I am willing to allow him time to think of them, so that they may be included in this bill.
– That is the easiest kind of criticism. The honorable gentleman asks me exhaustively to determine all the possible subject matters which may require immediate consideration during a war. I could not do it. nor could any one else.
– It is not, a matter of immediate consideration.
– It is.
– The honorable gentleman’s technical and expert advisers may suggest the control, say, of shipping. It will take some time to draw up the regulations to- control shipping - almost as long as for legislation to pass through this Parliament.
– I do not think so.
– Apparently, it is proposed to take control of shipping and probably to build ships.
The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– With respect to the matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), it would be impossible for the Government in this emergency to specify with particularity the heads of power which it required to luke. The emergency may require action immediately upon some matter not specified. The. Government is not prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn).
As to the incident to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, it is true that the Commonwealth Government passed a regulation, and that, following the issue by the court of a. writ of habeas corpus, another regulation was passed which enabled the suspected persons to be detained further. It could be done.
– Could the Government repeal a statute by regulation? If so, it is a power that no Government ought to have.
– I made that clear to the honorable member this morning when he maintained that sub-clause 7 of clause 5 conferred nothing, anr] T then referred him to clause 18.
– The Assistant Minister is not clear even now.
– I presented the case clearly in my second-reading speech, but the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was not here. With respect to sub-clause 4 of clause 5, I say i fi a t it would be impossible to comply with the request of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). There are -o many orders that if they had to come directly under the personal supervision of the Minister a breakdown of the administration would result. Provision lias been made to meet cases of hardship brought before the Minister. That is the full extent to which the Government is prepared to go.
– It would appear that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) has, to some extent, misled the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in his personal undertaking about regulations.
– There has been no misleading. The honorable member should be more careful in his choice of words.
– The honorable member for Richmond raised a point which, in substance, had a bearing on what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) 1,ad said. lie spoke of what might happen to certain naturalized aliens who had observed the law. Instances, in which the Assistant, Minister agreed that certain action was taken, by the Government, were cited. He then declared that he would give a personal undertaking that the regulations would be so drafted that similar circumstances would not - arise again.
– That undertaking stands.
– I submit that the Assistant Minister is not in a position to give such an undertaking, because power is being delegated beyond the Minister. That is the point that is now raised. How can he give an undertaking to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) in regard to certain aspects of the question, when the application of the law will not be entirely in his hands?
– The delegated power can be limited so as to provide that the undertaking shall be observed.
– The Assistant Minister has admitted that the ramifications of the subjects which will be dealt with under this bill are so wide that it is impossible to visualize what to-morrow might bring forth. Yet, in spite of that statement, he says that” he may include in the regulations provisions which will prevent persons exercising delegated powers from overriding his undertaking. That is an impossible argument.
– The undertaking which I gave can, and will be honoured, because in the delegation of powers provision can be made that the delegation shall run only to the extent that it complies with the undertaking given in Parliament. It is not a question of looking at every case that arises; the limitation will be contained in the delegation.
– The Assistant Minister’s argument against the stand taken by the honorable member for Dalley as to the further delegation of power, was that, because of the wide scope of the many matters that would arise, he would not know what position would confront him from day to day, and that, therefore, it was necessary to provide for the carrying out of the law by the delegation of powers. Now he says that it is possible so to frame the delegation that power will not be exercised contrary to his undertaking in this chamber. The Assistant Minister is not logical. The discussion shows how big a matter is involved, and how impossible it is for the Minister to give any undertaking as to what the future may hold under these regulations. There is not the slightest doubt that many innocent persons will be adversely affected by regulations containing provisions which the Government has no right to enact. The further the discussion proceeds, the more involved it becomes, but it reveals something of the extent to which our liberties are being thrown away.
– I desire to know whether or not this bill gives to the Government the power to alter a statute by regulation.
– The answer is “Yes”.
– -No such power ought to be given to any government. I recognize that during a war extraordinary things may have to be done, but if a dictatorship is to be established in this country - and that is what altering statutes by regulation means - there must be safeguards. There is only one person in this community whom I am prepared to trust with a dictatorship, and that is myself. The committee can be clear on that point.
– Probably no one else would agree with that dictatorship.
– I realize that. There must be some limitation of these things. I have a clear recollection of some of the stupidity associated with the last war, particularly in regard to some unfortunate persons who were placed behind barbed wire for no just reason. If it again becomes necessary to place men behind barbed wire, I say now that there are some members of the Communist party who would be better there than others bearing German names. Many whom I would place behind barbed wire would not have German names. There must be incorporated in this bill safe guards which will ensure that any alterations of statutes, which may be made by the Executive, shall be brought before the Parliament within a stipulated time, or cease to have power and effect. That is . only reasonable. It may be possible to get away with this sort of thing under the pretext of patriotism; but I submit that our attitude in the conduct of national affairs should be governed by common sense, even under war conditions. The first thing that we want to stamp out is any attempt to get things done by creating mass hysteria. Under this bill, the Government is to be given power to alter statutes by regulation. The committee would be well advised to insert safeguards.
– That is what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) wants to do.
– The bill contains specific provisions in clause 18 empowering the Government to override by regulation any act of Parliament other than this act.
– There is also the general power.
– I recognize the general power. I should not mind so much were it not for sub-clause 7, which is nothing but “ eye-wash “” of the worst possible kind. It is the sort of thing that no government ought to put in any measure.
– I cannot understand the honorable member’s allegation than sub-clause 7 is “ eye-wash “.
– Su bclause 7 reads -
Nothing in this section shall authorize -
the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military or air force service, or any form of industrial conscription…..
Unless the Government is deliberately determined to alter statutes by regulation, that is an unnecessary provision.
– That is precisely why Isaid that clause 18 gives power to override the act to which the honorable member referred.
– I do not remember any conversation tothat effect. I referred privately to paragraph b of sub-clause 7, dealing with trial by courts martial. I am now more befogged than ever as to the reason for this extraordinary sub-clause.
– TheWar Precautions Act had a special provision for courts martial; this bill has not.
– There are fairly severe limitations in the Defence Act as to who can be tried by court martial. It seems to me, on the Assistant Treasurer’s present explanation in regard to clause 18, that the Government is adopting a rather peculiar method.
– May I shortly indicate the position. The object of clause 18, as I pointed out to the House during the second reading, is to permit the Government to implement its powers without the restriction of any existing statute. I drew attention, by way of example, to the fact that under the bill there is the power to provide by regulation a moratorium. That, I assume the honorable member will agree, should well come within the powers of this act. Without the provisions of clause 18, that power would be nugatory, because there stands in the way the Bankruptcy Act of the Commonwealth, which provides that, once a person owes the sum of £50, is served with a bankruptcy notice, and fails to comply with the same, he shall be made bankrupt. Without the provisions of clause 1 8, the result would be that the moratorium legislation could not be given effect, because it would be inconsistent with the power given to a creditor under the Bankruptcy Act.
– It could be done by an act.
– Of course it could. An act could be passed with respect to every one of these powers - from the commencement no one has disputed that. The whole basis of this legislation is that in the urgency of war conditions, there is not time to come to Parliament for authority in respect of any particular emergency that may arise. It appears to me, if I may say so with respect, that there is a complete failure onthe part of a number of honorable members of the Opposition to realize that we are really at war. May I say to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that this provision was introduced not merely capriciously, but for the reason indicated in the example that I have given. The comparable legislation in England is in exactly the same form. In point of fact, our legislation does not go quite so far as the English act. Sub-section 5 of section 1 of the English National Emergency Act provides that a regulation, order, or by-law, may be made, notwithstanding the existence of any prior act. I think that the honorable member will realize, upon reflection, that this is necessary machinery, because in an emergency something might require to be done under regulation, and we might find that some condition imposed by one of the many statutes would prevent its being done.
– My mind goes back to 1914. I believe that, on that occasion, the moratorium was the subject of a special act of this Parliament.
– No; it was done by regulation.
– Even a moratorium should have some statutory basis, because the interests of many people are affected by it. With very great respect to the Executive of the day, it is quite possible that the rights of some interested parties may be badly dealt with under a moratorium. When we reach clause 18 we shall have to consider it carefully.
– I agree.
– I do not wish to embarrass the Government in any way, but it seems to me that this is one of the most important measures that have ever come before an Australian parliament. We are asked to surrender certain powers, and after their surrender we shall have very little voice in future developments. I stated earlier in the evening that, in view of the emergency thai exists, I am prepared to go a very long distance in trusting the Executive with certain powers; but, at the same time, one would fail in his duty at this particular juncture did he not endeavour to extract from the Executive some assurance as to how these powers are to be exercised. lt is quite possible that once these powers have been conferred, Parliament need be called together only once every twelve months; the Executive, being in possession of this power, might so disregard Parliament as to call it together only at very long intervals. I, with other honorable members, am handing to this particular Executive what is virtually a blank cheque. Before I hand that cheque across, I should like some sort of an assurance that Parliament will be called together at frequent intervals. I have previously stated that I do not think that Parliament should be kept sitting for lengthy periods, aud that the Executive should not be shackled too greatly; but, at the same time, there is an obligation on the Government to afford the people of this country, through their representatives in Parliament, an opportunity to express an opinion on the conduct of the war and in regard to any regulations that may have been gazetted under this particular power.
– May I say to the honorable member that the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear this morning that he intended to meet the House at reasonably frequent intervals in order to give an account of the stewardship of the Government.
– .1 am pleased to hear a repetition of that statement. It was in order to draw a further assurance to that effect before my vote was cast for this bill that I rose in the present occasion. I sincerely trust that when this power is granted the Government will not merely carry on and meet Parliament at very long intervals, but that, in view of all the circumstances that exist, Parliament will still be consulted as frequently as possible notwithstanding the possession of these powers by the Government.
– I make a last appeal to the committee, because I am convinced that, if . honorable members opposite had been in the chamber to hear the points that have been stressed by the Opposition, they would hesitate, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron)- now hesitates, having at last grasped the tremendous scope of the authority which the Government is taking. Let me repeat, that the power to deal with the lives of Australian citizens for the duration of the war and for six months thereafter would, in actual fact, be far greater than the powers of this Parliament if there were no war ; because, when this legislation is enacted, it will override any limitations which the Constitution may impose upon the normal working of this Parliament. The Government will be able to fix the prices of- goods and the rates of interest; to suspend the civil courts, and to keep men detained for a given period without laying a charge against them - for at least ten days, under an amendment which the AssistantTreasurer (Mr. Spender) has promised to accept.
– I warned the honorable gentleman that 1 thought such an amendment would not be to his advantage, but I am prepared to accept it.
– But for the discussion that has taken place, the Minister would be the sole judge as to what was a reasonable time during which a man should be detained without1 having a charge preferred against him.
– On the contrary; under clause 13. the test of what is a reasonable time would not lie with the Minister. The provision in respect of a reasonable time is made for the purpose of founding a habeas corpus application.
– Those of us who have a recollection of the previous operation of tin’s kind of legislation know that even when charges were preferred, most extraordinary things we’re done. I shall cite one case now. A regulation was promulgated on a Friday which made an offence of an utterance on the Thursday night. On the Saturday morning the person who made the speech which was not an offence on the Thursday night, was served with a summons to appear in the police court at 10 a.m. on the Monday. On the Saturday a further regulation was gazetted making it obligatory for the court to give to all charges laid under the first regulation precedence over all other charges on the list. When the case was called on before the magistrate there was not a copy of the Commonwealth Gazette in the State, and the magistrate adjourned the case until 2 p.m., when the Base Commandant went into the witness box and swore that he had received from the Minister for Defence a telegram to the effect that the regulation constituting the offence, and the additional regulation, had been gazetted. On that foundation the man was fined £50 or the alternative of three months’ imprisonment. He was convicted on evidence which would not stand investigation ; because, when the accused appealed to the . High Court, sitting months afterwards, the Crown did not enter an appearance. The two witnesses who had given evidence before the
Magistrate were utterly unreliable persons, and they were flatly contradicted by bona fide citizens, none of whom was of the political persuasion of the man who had been charged and convicted for having made on the Thursday night certain remarks which were not then an offence but- which, by a regulation made on theFriday, were made an offence. The Assistant Treasurer has already said that in principle that kind of law-making will be possible under this bill. What the then Government did in that connexion we are enabling this Government to do, -by passing the bill in its present form. The honorable gentleman knows that we are giving that tremendous authority to the Government. 1 should, perhaps, be more disposed to say that this power would not be abused -I should, perhaps, be better disposed to accept the assurances of the Assistant Treasurer - but for the fact that similar assurances were given to representative members of this Parliament in 1915, and all of them were repudiated. There can be no reliability, because none ofus knows what sort of passions and political conflicts may emerge in this country during the next year or two. I hope that there will not be any. The honorable member for
Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and 1 have asked that there shall be regular and frequent meetings of Parliament, that the Parliament should be kept open. But if we pass this law, giving to the Executive this tremendous power, what will there be for the Parliament to do? The Government will not have to come to Parliament to ask it to pass laws; it will merely ask honorable members to assemble in order to listen to recitals of its administration. Parliament will then have an opportunity to move that certain regulations be disallowed. The. Government has to exercise these tremendous powers, and it will be said by honorable members opposite that, in an emergency such as the present we cannot, expect the normal life of the community to continue. We contend that the administration of the law in this way is in every respect equivalent to the decrees which Hitler promulgates from clay to day, and., as Shelley said, “ power, like a desolating pestilence, pollutes what-ever it touches”. It is more abject to give away a power than to have it taken fromus.
– Some members of the Opposition should be in Germany and not here.
Mr.CURTIN. - . I hope that the Assistant. Minister (Mr. Spender) will resist the temptation to make allusions of that kind. That is the cheap propaganda characteristic of his colleague, whoI hope will not again have an opportunity to promote any kind of discord in this community. I am glad that I am not in Germany, and I am sure that every member of the Opposition and every citizen in this country is glad that he is not in that country.
– The honorable member said that it is more abject to give away power democratically to the Executive than to have it taken away.
– This throws uponus the responsibility of surrendering the power of Parliament. That power is beinggiven away, but not under coercion.
– To whom is the authority to be given - not to foreigners?
– The people of Germany are not governed by foreigners. The honorable member should at least be logical. I trust that this country will continue to’ be ruled by the constitutional authority provided rather than by those who have no responsibility. I wish in uo way to offend against what I contend to be the decencies of controversy whatever may be ahead of us. I shall make even a stronger attempt to have proper regard for the preservation of a maximum of unity in Australia, in view of the observations made by the honorable member for Richmond and the honorable mem: ber for Barker. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) appears to indicate how wise it would be for the Government to be satisfied with a substantial instalment of this comprehensive legislation, and if it should find that that instalment is not sufficient to prosecute the war to a. successful conclusion, it need only appeal to this Parliament, which has pledged itself to meet frequently, and the Government will then be able to get from Parliament such augmentations of its authority as may be necessary to secure the effective carrying out of all of its obligations to the Australian people.
– The attitude adopted by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) bears out the contention I made* during my secondreading speech that we do not have to go abroad to find fascists. Despite whatever apprehensions the Assistant Minister may have at the moment, we feel sure that be would be at home in Germany. He appears to think there is some distinction between the powers taken from the people by force under a dictatorship and those which he states are given in a democratic way. I do not know what he means by a democratic way, but I may remind him that this Government has not been even democratically elected. It is a minority Government and until it receives the endorsement of the electors it cannot claim to be democratically elected. It was only by the manipulation of the party machine, and by the intrigue of various interests, that it is able to remain in office. As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) reminds me by interjection, the Assistant Minister is himself in a false position in that he came into this Parliament as an independent, and said that he would not be tied to any party machine.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– The Assistant Minister cast a reflection on members of the Opposition when he said that some of us should be in Germany, and if he makes provocative interjections surely I am entitled to reply. I challenge the statement of the Assistant Minister that these powers are to be conferred upon the Executive in a democratic way; the final authority in a democracy is the people. If the people had an opportunity to pass judgment in respect of this legislation they would not permit it to be passed. As a matter of fact, this measure can prevent the people from passing judgment on the Government. If the Government is prepared to go to the people and make this an issue we are prepared to accept their verdict. This Government professes to protect the liberties and rights of the people and of Parliament, but it is now destroying the very things which it promised to protect. I happened to hear some of the election speeches delivered by the Assistant Minister on the Corso at Manly when seeking the support of the electors of Warringah. On one occasion he said that one of the great dangers of party government in this country is that minorities may be able to inflict their will upon majorities and destroy the liberties of the people. What has become of the independent candidate elected to this Parliament ? He is now a. party hack and wants to become a little Hitler. The fight will not finish here. This measure is a violation of the pledge given to the people, and if this Government will not protect their interests the Opposition will use every endeavour to do so.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that the powers proposed to be taken by the Government can override acts of Parliament.- Clause 18 confers only the power to override acts of this Parliament, but apart from that section the Government would have had the power to override the habeas corpus act. A clause similar to clause 18 of this bill was not in the War Precautions Act, and this provision has been inserted to overcome a doubt which existed as to whether regulations could override a Commonwealth statute. This measure definitely provides that an act of this Parliament can be overridden. In the Wallach case the first point raised was whether it could be contended that the regulation-making power given by the Commonwealth Parliament to the Executive could be extended to override fundamental constitutional rights and the Commonwealth held that this power could override the habeas corpus law. Clause 18 does not cover the whole matter. Even if that provision were not in the bill there would still be power to override the habeas corpus provisions and Magna Charts.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Blackburn’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Collins.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment negati ved .
– I desire to direct the attention of the committee to a matter of definite an portance. The regulations made by the Executive under the powers conferred by this measure will have to be laid before Parliament according to the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act, and they may be disallowed by either House of Parliament. That protection is not taken away by this bill, but no similar protection is given to Parliament against the abuse of power in regard to orders, rules or by-laws, which may be as important and as significant as the regulations. The regulations are subject to veto by Parliament but orders, rules and- by-laws are not. It is true that they are subject to veto by the Minister, but not by Parliament. Once the regulation which authorizes this power of delegation has been laid before Parliament, and not rejected by either House, Parliament will have no power to disallow orders, rules and by-laws made under the power of delegation. A single House of Parliament should have as much power to disallow an order, rule or by-law made by a Minister as to disallow the regulation under which it is made. This very desirable end could be achieved in a simple way. Sub-clause 5 of this clause states that the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937 shall apply to the interpretation of any orders, rule? or by-laws made in pursuance of the regulation in the same way as it applies to the interpretation of regulations, and, for the purposes pf section 46 of that act, those orders, rules, and by-laws shall be deemed to be acts. In order to achieve the purpose I have in view it is only necessary to omit the limiting words “ the interpretation pf “ which occur twice in the sub-clause. Any one who looks at the regulations which have been made already in anticipation of the conferring of this power will see that very important powers a.re given. An order, rule or by-law is a law of the Commonwealth just as much as is the regulation under which it is made. It may be that a regulation conferring power to make an order, rule or by-law might pass without objection, and yet there might be the strongest objection by this House or the Senate to the order, rule or by-law so made.
– I am trying to find a formula to cover the application of the Acts Interpretation Act and, in the mean- time, I’ suggest that clause 5 be postponed.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (1.) If, with respect to any proceedings (whether instituted before or after the commencement of this Act), the court before which the proceedings are taken is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of tlie public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth or any Territory of the Commonwealth so to do, the court -
– During the second-reading debate I referred to a Queensland act which seems to have provided the inspiration for the clause now before the committee. This clause bears a striking similarity to section 9 of the Queensland Peace Preservation Act of 1.894, which is as follows : -
A district magistrate holding an inquiry under this Act shall himself conduct such inquiry, and shall not permit any other person to question or examine any witness.
Clause 8 of this bill provides that the court may give directions that, throughout or during any part of the proceedings, such persons or classes of persons as the court determines shall be excluded. Section 10 of the Queensland act states -
No person shall be admitted to be present at any such inquiry except by special permission of the district magistrate holding the same.
Lt is evident how democratic and progressive are the ideas of this Government when it had to refer back to a State act of 1894 when drawing up this legislation. I admit that the phraseology in this bill is better. The sugar coating makes the bill easier to swallow, but it is the same old pill. Under this measure the magistrate will be empowered if ho thinks fit to exclude even the legal adviser of the person charged. For that reason this is a very dangerous clause, indeed. I merely enter my protest, because I know that the Government has made up its mind, and will go ahead no matter what we say. Authority should not be given to a magistrate to exclude an accused person’s legal adviser as was done in the Paul Freeman case. When we attempted to provide legal assistance for Paul Freeman we were refused permission; meanwhile he was shipped out of Australia and we had no assurance that be had ever been brought to trial. We do not know even yet whether he was tried.
– Replying to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), when this clause was discussed during the secondreading debate, the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) intimated that the term “ expedient “, appearing in sub-clause 1 might be altered to “necessary”.
– I did not say that I would move such an amendment, but I am prepared to accept it.
– What is the difference between the two terms ?
– I think that “ neces- sary” would cast a more definite burden upon the court than “ expedient “.
– I think the difference is immaterial.
– The points raised in respect of this provision during the second-reading debate indicated that the
Government is adopting a doublebarrelled method insofar as accused persons are concerned, apart altogether from the secrecy of court proceedings. The reason advanced for this secrecy was that a person might .be arraigned on a charge of having made known some secret defence documents.
– It goes further than that; witnesses might be forced to disclose certain secret information.
– That is so.
– That is forbidden under this clause.
– If that be so, the argument advanced by the Assistant Minister in support of the necessity for hearings in camera can hardly be sustained. He said that it might, be necessary for a representative of the Defence Department who appeared as a witness in a case to disclose to the court certain evidence which should be kept secret.
– The specific example I quoted was that an officer of the. Defence Department might be forced to produce a secret document which it was alleged the accused had copied. Such proceedings, I suggested, should be held in camera, because every precaution must be taken to prevent, such information from leaking out.
– That seems to be the only ground for the observance of secrecy by the court.
– There might, be other examples as, for instance, in respect of evidence given by the police to show that they are in touch with other men who do not know that they are under supervision.
– And that provision would protect the stool pigeon or pimp in proceedings; which, as is not unlikely, savoured of political persecution.
– I do no’ suggest that secrecy should be observed in order to protect the stool pigeon or the pimp. This practice is frequently followed in our courts. The production of police reports to the court is sometimes refused because the disclosure of such reports might enable people about to be appre hended to escape from justice. This provision has nothing to de with the protection of a stool pigeon.
– In the light of outexperience of this kind of legislation in the past, I fear that occasions might arise in which men will be charged with various offences having a distinctly political background, and the prosecution might seek to sustain such charges on the evidence of stool pigeons. If proceedings be held in camera, what chance will there be of exposing the evils associated with such practices? Closed courts are always dangerous. Many attempts have been ‘ made in recent years, particularly in New South Wales, to have a number of cases, notably in divorce jurisdiction, heard in camera. Yet only as the result of open hearings in such cases have the objectionable tactics employed by private agents been revealed. The tendency in British law has always been that the light of day should be thrown, upon all legal proceedings. Anything in the nature of secrecy savours of star chamber methods. Our view is that many agents who will be employed in policing this law will be men of a certain kind associated with the defence organization in whom we have very little faith.
– And also the police.
– The police will be concerned only to a limited degree. They are not called upon to exercise their duties in the same way as a certain class of officer of the Defence Department. The police have a wider knowledge of the public,, and it is generally recognized that they are averse to coercion or framing. Bather are they inclined to apply the law sympathetically; but that cannot be said of the officers of the Defence Department to whom I refer.
– They are instructed officially .to use their powers with the greatest discretion.
– They work in a way entirely different from, that employed by the police. Men of this type will have much to do with many cases of the kind which we are now considering. What, a great harvest they will reap, if it :s within the power of a magistrate to hear such cases privately in order to prevent these men from becoming known for what they are.- Our only protection against such evils is to vote against this clause. In that way we can at least register our objection to secret hearings of this kind.
Mr. THORBY (Calare) 1.6.25 a.m.].The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) takes an entirely wrong view of the provisions of this clause. Quite recently this Parliament created the Air Court of Inquiry to supersede the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, and empowered it to take certain evidence, and to hear the whole or part of such evidence behind closed doors. It can exclude, or admit, the press in its discretion. I point out to the honorable member that the observance of secrecy in hearings of the kind to which he refers will be in the discretion not of the defence authorities, but of the court itself. If the court be satisfied that it is expedient to do so in the interests of public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth or Territories of the Commonwealth, it. may direct that the whole or any part of the proceedings shall be held in camera. It is essential in cases of espionage, or sabotage., for instance, that the disclosure of certain evidence be prevented. Furthermore, as the Assistant Minister (Mr. Spender) has pointed out, it would never do to have certain defence documents produced in an open court, . when they would become available to the press, possibly photographed, and published throughout the world. As I have said on a previous occasion, uo foreign country needs to employ spies in Australia, because our press does its best to publish everything it can get hold of, directly or indirectly. Therefore, it is essential to empower the court, and the court only, to use its discretion iu the interests of national security as to which proceedings should be held behind closed doors.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) seems to be principally concerned about the publication of documents that come before the court. I am not so very much concerned about that aspect. What concerns me most is this : I believe that our only guarantee that the courts will do their work honestly, justly, and fearlessly, will be sittings in public.
– What about the Children’s Court?
– That is in a different category. The Children’s Court cannot take away a. child’s life.
– It can take away a man’s liberty.
– Yes. Our Children’s Courts often exceed their rightful powers, but that is an abuse. I believe that no court should have power to dispose of the liberty, let alone the life, of anybody unless it sits in public. Publicity is our only guarantee that the courts will do their work fearlessly and honestly, and will not be browbeaten by authority. The cases that will come before courts of the- kind which we are now considering will be of two classes. The more serious will be heard by a justice of the High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court, or by a chairman of General Sessions, and will be tried by a jury, whilst less important cases will come before a magistrate. It is no reflection upon magistrates to say that they are less likely to be careful of the interests of the public than a justice of the High Court, or a judge of the Supreme Court, because the latter are men who have been trained in the tradition of a profession, and in the tradition of English law, and would not willingly close their courts, whereas the police magistrate is very likely to be very ductile in the hands of a prosecutor, particularly if the latter be an eminent barrister. Everybody has seen over and over again the position which arises when some eminent advocate is brought down into the police courts. He has a. much greater influence upon the police magistrate than possibly a legal opponent of not such high standing. It would be much more difficult to ensure secrecy in the case of a jury trial in which you have piesent not only a judge but also twelve members of the jury. It might also be said that secrecy would be much more difficult, in important than in inferior cases. My objection to this clause is that judges and magistrates are, after’ all, only human beings. The judiciary of England acquired its independence and fearlessness of the Executive only slowly, and the biggest guarantee that it would do its work fearlessly and honestly is that it should sit in public. I should like to quote a passage from a judgment delivered upon this important question of the power of the court to sit in camera. Lord Shaw of Dunfermline in 1913 said -
It is needless to quote authority on this topic from legal, philosophical, or historical writers. It moves Bentham over and over again. “ In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place ‘ can any of the checks applicable to judicial injustice operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.” “Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.” “ The security of securities is publicity”. But amongst historians the grave and enlightened verdict of Hallam, in which he ranks the publicity of judicial proceedings even higher than the rights of Parliament, as a guarantee of public security, is not likely to be forgotten : “ Civil liberty in this kingdom has two direct guarantees: the open administration of justice according to known laws truly interpreted, and fair constructions of evidence; and the right of Parliament, without let or interruption, to inquire into, and obtain redress of, public grievances. Of these, the first is by far the most indispensable; nor can the subjects of any State be reckoned to enjoy a real freedom where this condition is not found both in its judicial institutions and in their constant exercise “-
I point out that the constitution of the United States of America contains guarantees of trial by jury in the ordinary way and guarantees a person charged with an offence against incriminating himself. Still the United States of America was able to go through the war period and enforce espionage legislation and legislation against treason without having its courts conducted in secret. In the same way in England, Sir Roger Casement was tried in open daylight.
– This bill does not provide that offenders shall not be. tried in open court; it gives to the court power to decide whether a trial shall be held in public or in camera.
– I would not object if this power were given only to a superior court, but it is to be exercised by a police magistrate who will be given discretion to say “ I think that it is in the interests of the nation that this case should be tried in camera”. With all respect, I suggest that magistrates are not fit to ‘be entrusted with that discretion. In times of great tension of feeling, when appeals are made to them by the Commonwealth and by eminent advocates on behalf of the Commonwealth, they are likely to exercise this power. I feel sure that if this power had been exercised by the courts during the operation of the War Precautions Act, very few accused persons would have been acquitted. Many magistrates started cases biased against the accused. If they had sat behind closed doors, very few would have escaped conviction. The only thing that compels the doing of justice, is the fact that the courts are open. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) made a very eloquent appeal to us to put the safety of the people before the rights of the people ; but the safety of the people is, after all, the safety of the individual, and the community cannot feel itself safe unless every individual in it realizes that he is free. You cannot destroy confidence in the fairness and honesty of the courts of justice without doing a very grave injury to the community. I would be prepared to concede that the court might say that the evidence should not be published, but I cannot conceive of anything that would justify the courts proceeding in camera in cases where criminal charges are made against a man, and his very life may be at stake, I cannot concede that where the liberty or life of a man is concerned, his rights should be taken away from him without being sure that it was done according to the law of this land. No one can be sure of that when a tribunal sits behind closed doors. In our British system the experience of courts sitting behind closed doors made the Parliament determined that no further courts should be created, that did not proceed under the ordinary rule of law. The ‘Star Chamber was one of them. Writing about the Star Chamber, Maitland, in his work Constitutional History of England, said -
The Star Chamber, examining the accused, and making no use of the jury, probably succeeded in punishing many crimes which would otherwise have gone unpunished. But that it was a tyrannical court, that it became more and more tyrannical, and under Charles I. was guilty of great infamies, is still more indubitable.
If we do not all feel very keenly on these matters, I would not attempt to elaborate arguments I have used before. I believe that the power proposed to be conferred by this clause is an extremely dangerous one. It was not considered necessary in Australia during the last war, nor was it invoked in either England or the United States of America. I cannot see anything that justifies its introduction here. The Parliament or the Executive should specify the limited classes of cases in which a court may . be closed. This discretionary power should not be vested in a magistrate. In time of war or panic a police magistrate is much more likely than a Supreme Court judge to become the victim of the hysteria which comes over the community and to subordinate the interests of the unfortunate person charged before him to what he believes to be the real interests of the community.
– Another reason for scepticism in regard to what might be done if this clause is passed is to be found in Australia’s Awakening, by W. G. Spence, a former member of this House and for a long time a member of the party to which I belong. In the chapter entitled The Fight in Queensland, Mr. Spence says -
The report of the Chief Commissioner of Police on the 1894 strike states that 78 men were arrested of whom 44 were convicted for various offences.
One of the actions most characteristic of the Government took place in connexion with this report. Colonial Secretary Tozer orderedan alteration in the report so as to make it justify his coercion act.
The commissioner said : “ That is the truth according to my light.”
Tozer replied: “I want the truth according to my light”
Mr. D. T. Seymour, the commissioner said,had written in reference to the act. “It was not necessary to enforce any of its provisions.” This was erased, showing to what lengths Tozer would go. Oakden, who had charge out west,dared to say that there were faults on both sides. Under the cross-examination of labour members in the House, Tozer became ho notorious for the unreliability of his statements that all over Queensland to-day, when you don’t believe a statement, you say. “ That’s a Tozer.”
Yet that gentleman was Colonial Secretary in the Queensland Government and went to England as Agent-General for Queensland. During his service in that capacity he was created a K.O.M.G. on the recommendation of the Queensland Government. I put it to honorable members that one is justified in his scepticism when it is shown that even Ministers of the Crown stoop so low. I am not prepared to entrust the Government with this power, and I regret that the Assistant Treasurer is adamant that all of the . powers proposed in this bill shall be granted to the Government. I am sorry to think that, because there is opposition to his ideas, he so far forgets himself as to say that members on this side of the chamber are fit to be in Germany.
– I did not say that. If the honorable member takes my remarks as a personalreflection upon himself, I withdraw them.
– Is the only reason for the insertion of this clause in the bill the fact that a similar provision is included in the British emergency legislation ?
– That, in addition to its desirability.
– The fact that a similar provision is in the British legislation is, in itself, not an adequate argument for its inclusion in our bill. There are distinctions between the legislation of the two countries, apart from this feature. What would have been greater justification for the inclusion of the provision in this bill would have been a recital to the committee of what weaknesses there were in the defence organization during the last war which could be attributed to the fact that 3,400 prosecutions carried out, under the war precautions legislation were determined in the courts without this provision being attached to it. For more than four years in which this country was engaged in a war with the very same enemy that now opposes us, this provision did not obtain. I have no doubt that the interests that were anxious that Germany should survive and triumph in the last war are just as anxious for its survival and triumph in this war, and they, will be just as alert and alive in endeavouring to sabotage Australian property now as they were then. But the Government has given no reasons to justify the enforcement of the provisions of this clause against offenders, nor has it indicated that any difficulty was encountered in dealing with such offenders under the War Precautions Act which did not include such a provision.
– We have a little more to spy upon in Australia now than we had from 1914 to 1918.
– Experience has shown that a provision of this kind is necessary.
– Nevertheless it is unjust that an accused should be denied a fair, public trial.
– Sometimes a litt)2) injustice must be suffered for the publicgood.
-! again direct attention to the remarks made by Mr. Watt on this subject in 191.4. We cannot disregard the rights of individuals entirely, because, after all, the community consists of 7,000,000 individuals. We cannot ride roughshod over their rights, nor even over the rights of persons who may be falsely suspected and accused, for frequently the charges- laid against them are inspired by other than disinterested motives.
– Why would it be unjust to hear these cases behind closed doors ?
– We shall have no guarantee that a court will, in such circumstances, carry out all its obligations.
– Accused persons may obtain legal assistance.
– Many of them will noi he able to afford to do so.
– Our magistrates anmen of the highest integrity.
– As a general rule that is true, but. there have been exceptions.
– Exceptions are to be found in every rank in life.
– I know that there are exceptions, for I recall a case under thu War Precautions Act during the last war. The magistrate who was to try it indicated at a club the night before the hearing the course that he intended to take. I do not hesitate to say that the time came when he was retired from the service. What are the fundamental principles of what we call British liberty I Surely they include provisions that a man is entitled to face a clear and decisively defined charge, and that he shall not be punished unless he has been so charged and the charges against him have been proved. Further, he must be afforded the fullest opportunity, to defend himself in accordance with the rules and practices of our courts.
-A 11 those things are provided for already.
– A very important principle will be abrogated if the case is to be heard behind closed doors.
– Cases may be heard behind closed doors. It is not certain that they will be so heard.
– Well, I ask the Minister to agree that, at least, charges deal: with under summary jurisdiction shall not be heard in camera. I take it that the Crown will determine whether charges shall be beard under summary jurisdiction or upon indictment. It may also be assumed that charges which the Crown regards as serious, such as espionage, will be heard upon indictment, and that the charges of a less serious characwill bo dealt with summarily. Will the Government amend the clause to provide that charges dealt with summarily shall not be heard behind closed doors? That would go some way to meet the wishes of the Opposition. Charges dealt with upon indictment would be heard before a judge and jury, so that even if they were heard behind” closed doors at least the judgment of more than one. man would be given, upon them.
– I am prepared to move an amendment to meet the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition in this matter. I hope that that will satisfy the Opposition.
– I do not wish the. Assistant Treasurer to be under any misapprehension. Such an amendment will not satisfy us, but . if the clause is so amended we shall regard it as less grievous than it is at present. I take it that the word “ necessary “ will also be substituted for Hip word “ expedient ‘”.
.One point is being overlooked. Has the accused no rights in this matter? Should he not be entitled to make a request that the charge against him should be heard in camera? In my opinion accused persons suffer a great deal more from undue press publicity than from abuses due to cases being heard in camera. The case of many an accused person is prejudiced by undue publicity, insinuations and suggestions in the public press before it is even submitted to ‘ the court. Judges very frequently find it necessary to impress upon juries that they must rid their minds of anything that they may have read in the newspapers or heard in public places concerning the case they are about to try.
– There can be no protection against that sort -of thing.
– I urge the Government to hold to the clause as it is printed in the bill. It may be very necessary, in the interests of accused persons, to hear cases in camera. It seems to me that if we agree to an amendment of the clause in the direction suggested by the ‘ Opposition we shall be casting a serious reflection upon the ability, wisdom, fairness and judgment of those entrusted with the high responsibility of interpreting the law.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) surely cannot have read the clause, which does not give the defendant any right to request that a case shall be heard in camera or in public. It is the court which must determine the matter in accordance with what it deems to be necessary in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the Commonwealth. The clause will be considerably improved if it is amended as now proposed, but I should not like the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to think that I shall find it acceptable even then. It will simply bo less objectionable than it is at present.
– In the speech of. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) We were invited to applaud the Government because it is providing that cases of the kind now under consideration shall be submitted to a court rather than a court martial, but I cannot applaud this clause. I do not think that such cases should be heard in camera. I agree, however, that the substitution of the word “ necessary “ for “ expedient “, and the making of the proposed amendment to provide that cases dealt with summarily shall not be heard behind closed doors will improve the clause. Because of our experience of twenty odd years ago many of us are not prepared to accept this clause as it stands. It must be remembered that the courts which will deal with these cases will not be sitting in normal times. The minds of even magistrates and judges are sometimes inflamed by circumstances. Many defendants experienced great difficulty in presenting their cases years ago. I cannot applaud the justice that was meted out to many people in those times. I hope that the Government will agree to an amendment of paragraph b of sub. clause 1 which gives the court power to prohibit or restrict the disclosure of information with respect to these proceedings. Apparently even an accused person who has been acquitted of a charge may be denied the right to disclose particulars regarding the charge, the evidence or the verdict to the stigma that remains even after acquittal. Does the Assistant Treasurer think that is fair?
– I was asked that question earlier and my answer was “ Yes,” and it still is “Yes.”
– The accused in any of these proceedings, where he is found guilty or where he is acquitted to suit the convenience of the court, should not be prevented from ventilating his particular grievance. It is very nice for a legal gentleman like the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to defend the court and all that surrounds it, but I submit that where a judge orders the press or any other individual or authority not to disclose what happens in these proceedings, the same prohibition should not be inflicted upon the accused. If a man is acquitted, . there remains the stigma that at least he was charged, and although he was acquitted he. may have been guilty. The right of that man to disclose what the charge was and what the proceedings were, and what the verdict was, should not bc limited by any judge or magistrate. He should have the right, not only of the general knowledge that he- was acquitted of the charge, but also- to disclose the nature ofthe charge and everything appertaining to it, including the fact of his acquittal.
Amendments (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That after the word “court,” sub-clause (1) tirst occurring, the words (“not being a Court nf Summary jurisdiction “) be inserted.
That the word “ expedient “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ necessary “.
Clause., as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 5 - by leave - (4.) livery order, rule, or by-law made by any person (other than a Minister of State) shall be subject to disallowance by the Minister administering thu regulation under which the order, rule, or by-law was made. (7.) Nothing in this section shall authorize -
– I move -
That sub-clause 4 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-clause: - (4) Section 48 (except paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (1), and sub-section (2) ) and section 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937. shall apply to orders, rules, and by-laws which are of a legislative and not an executive character, in like manner as they apply to regulations. [ have extended this clause for the purpose of meeting the objection raised by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I have not gone the full way,, because the laying of every executive order upon the table of the House would involve a tremendous and unnecessary burden and would not achieve any useful purpose. The result of the amendment will be that only those executive orders of legislative character will be tabled.
Amendment agreed to.
. -I should say that the amendment of the clause does not go as far as the committee thinks that it should, or as far as the Government intends. The forbidding of the imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military, or air service, it seems to me, would be quite consistent with the extension of the already exi sting obligation. . For instance, obligation exists on Australian men to serve in Australia or the Territories of the Commonwealth when called up. The Government might, by regulation, extend the application, say, for service in Singapore or Hong Kong, and that need not be imposition of a form of compulsion of naval, military, or air force service. I suggest thatsubb-clause 7 should read as follows: -
Nothing in this section shall authorize -
The imposition of any form of compulsory naval, military, or airforce service or the extension of any existing obligation to render compulsory naval military, or airforce service ….
– “Would that not be in conflict with the Defence Act?
– I shall accept that.
– I move-
That after the word “ conscription “ sub- clause ( 7 ) the words “ or the extension of any existing obligation to render compulsory naval, military, or air force service,” be inserted.
– Is the Government accepting that?
– Well, the Government will accept anything.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 - (2.)If a person suspected of having committed, or of being about to commit, an offence against this act, is arrested under the provisions of this section, a report of the fact and circumstances shall forthwith be made to the Attorney-General or to a person appointed in that behalf by the Attorney-General, and -
– I understand that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has undertaken to place some limitation on the time which might expire between the time of arrest and the laying of a charge.
– I did not undertake to do that. I said that I was prepared to do it. I thought it was inadvisable in the interests of the arguments of the Opposition, but I am prepared to insert a time limit of ten days.
– That is proper.
That, the words “ a reasonable time “ subclause 2 be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ ten days from the date ofhis arrest.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.
A regulation made under this act shall, sub ject to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1937, have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this act or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this act.
– I have had some discussion with the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) about this clause and he generously suggested that these regulations may be laid upon the table, but as they would be laid upon the table in any ease, the honorable gentleman’s generosity was not of great account.
– I noticed that when I got back. Under the Acts Interpretation Act they must be. tabled.
– There should be some protection for the community, particularly in view of the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself made to the House last night when dealing with the question of trading with the enemy. The Prime Minister raised two points, one in regard to the rights of an enemy subject in a Prize Court and the other in regard to an enemy, subject engaged in insurance transactions. I cannot quote the right honorable gentleman’s exact words, but I think that the Assistant Treasurer will find that he said that during war time he would not deny to an enemy subject the right of access to the Australian courts to get Australian justice according to Australian law. In view of this, it would be a hard thing to say to the Australian community itself, “ We shall maintain in this country a system of justice for the enemy subjects which we are not prepared to guarantee for our own taxpayers “. In view of that, whenever the Executive takes it into its head to amend, vary or suspend a statute which provides protection of or guarantees liberty, it should have effect for a specified period before the expiration of which Parliament is to be given opportunity to go into the question. The Minister will recognize that this is an extraordinary request. He mentioned earlier the instance of moratorium. “ Moratorium “ is a nice sounding word, but some grave iniquities were done during the last moratorium. In the last depression moratorium acts were passed in certain of the States and I think that if some of the people who were responsible for those acts had their times over again they would act differently. It is bad enough when evils result from a moratorium passed into law in free discussion in Parliament where there is an opportunity to bring to bear on the subject the interests of every possible section of the community, but with great respect to the Executive, no matter who constitutes it, in a moratorium’ imposed by executive action there is a possibility of interests vital to some people being overlooked.
In view of the definite statement of the Prime Minister last night, I suggest that this matter should receive further consideration.
– We have reached the last two clauses of the bill, and at this stage I do not propose to make a long speech. I intend to divide the committee on this clause because the Opposition sees no way in which it can be amended to make it tolerable. 1 simply say to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender), and to the committee, that the only conceivable way in which we can prevent the amending or repealing of the statutes of this Parliament by regulation is by denying to the Government in this bill the right to amend, or to repeal, an act of this Parliament, leaving to the Government the duty to bring before the Parliament amending bills in order that the Parliament may decide whether alterations of acts already on the statute-book shall be made. That is a simple issue. I do not imagine that there will be need for such serious alterations of the law as to make it impracticable for the Government to follow the usual course in dealing with statute law. But there is more in this proposal than that. When the Parliament has passed a law, it is the duty of the Government which desires to amend that law not only to submit proposed amendments to the Parliament hu: also to obtain the approval of the Parliament to the text of the proposed amendments. We may find ourselves in the position that, by regulation, the Government has altered an act passed by this Parliament without giving to us the opportunity even to consider the form of the amendment. Therefore the Government seeks to deprive . the Parliament of two of its fundamental rights - first, the right to decide whether or not the law shall be changed, and, secondly, the right to decide in what way the law shall be changed. I said earlier during this sitting that it was worse to surrender a power that lessened the authority of the Parliament and the people over the law than to have it forcibly taken from us. I still insist that that was a reasonable statement of tho case. We are here asked to surrender to the Government the complete authority to annul statutes which this Parliament has placed on the statute-book, and, in addition, to give to the Government the power to substitute such new phraseology as it thinks proper. That is too tremendous a power to be given to the Government at this early stage of the conduct of the war. Having regard to the repeated assurances of the Prime Minister and the Assistant Treasurer, which I accept, that Parliament will be called together reasonably frequently, such a power is unnecessary. If the Parliament does not reserve to itself the right to insist on dealing with proposed amendments of the law, we shall reach a position in which the Government becomes, in fact, the exclusive law-making authority. The difference between the form of government, that that would involve in this country, and the form of government in some other countries would be bard to distinguish in practice. If we had been engaged in this conflict for, say, six months, and the Assistant Treasurer were then to say that experience bad shown that delays had frustrated the intention of the Government, I should, perhaps, be willing to listen to him, and to take cognizance of what he said. But without any experience in this connexion at all, and without having yet reached any difficulty in this matter, he asks for power as though difficulties did, in fact, exist. I submit that such power ought not to be given to him. The Opposition will vote against the clause.
.If the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) be accepted, the purpose of the bill will practically be destroyed.
– Does the honorable member say that the laws of this country should be altered by regulation?
– We have already agreed to the principles embodied in this emergency legislation. To eliminate clause IS dealing with regulations, in respect of which the Minister has agreed to provide safeguards, would be to destroy the effectiveness of the legislation. I ask the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) whether it is not the intention of the Government to go ahead with its normal legislative programme in the usual way, and to . take advantage of this emergency legislation only to meet emergencies as they arise?
– That is the intention.
– It is unreasonable to say that with the passing of this legislation there will be no necessity to introduce further bills, since the Government, will take advantage of the provisions of this emergency legislation to enact further legislation by regulation.
– There is no intention on the part of the Government to say that, having been given emergency powers, it will do what it likes without consulting Parliament.
– That is my construction of the Government’s intention.
– The Government’s purpose is to implement the general powers contained in clause 5, not to avoid meeting Parliament.
– Similar legislation was prepared during the crisis of September last year, and I know that the intention of the Government then was as I have stated.
– I do not think that this clause was included in last year’s bill, but a similar provision has been inserted in the English act.
– The whole principle underlying this emergency legislation is to provide for the national security by meering .emergencies us they arise. Unforeseen circumstances may have to be dealt with immediately, but it is not intended to depart from the normal practice in connexion with the ordinary legislative programme of the Government. Ordinary legislation will be dealt with in the normal way, by the introduction of bills into Parliament.
– If the intention had been what the Leader of the Opposition suggests it is, there would have been no need to introduce yesterday the Trading with the Enemy Bill.
– T desire some clarification of another point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I understood him to say that after the passage of this legislation the Government could introduce a bill of any character, and that, should a clause of that bill be defeated, the Government could, by regulation, do what the House had refused to do when dealing with specific legislation. Is that what the honorable gentleman meant to convey ?
– It is.
– In my opinion, no government would be justified in doing rhat.
– Hear, hear !
– In any case, no government could get away with such an action, because any such regulation would have to come before Parliament. Action of that nature would be a direct defiance of Parliament. It was never intended that this legislation, should be used to authorize acts which Parliament had rejected. My interpretation of this National Security Bill is that it will give to the Government the power to meet an urgent situation involving matters which the Government has had no opportunity to bring before Parliament. If there is time to bring the matter before Parliament in the ordinary way, it will be done. I hope that the Government will continue to bring bills before Parliament, and should any part of any bill be rejected, no attempt should be made by die Government to take advantage of the national security legislation to do by regulation what Parliament “has refused to do by way of legislation.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr.
Thorby) is trying to square his conscience with his vote. He is hopeful that certain things will not be done, but the fact is that he is voting to give to the Government the power to do those things.
– Quite so.
– The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has already admitted that, under this clause, it is competent for the Government to alter any legislation that has been passed in the history of the Commonwealth.
– Theoretically, that is so.
– Not only theoreti cally, but actually it is so. If the Government requires only certain powers, why should the Assistant Treasurer not agree to the granting of restricted powers? Any kind of emergency might arise. For instance, should a financial emergency overtake us the Government might decide to implement something similar to the Premiers plan. Or, on account of financial stringency, it might decide to amend the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act, and reduce pensions. Does the Minister deny that, if a financial emergency occurred, such things could be done? He does not deny it. It is well that honorable members who intend to vote to give this power to the Government should, unlike the honorable member for Calare, have the courage to say “ I am prepared to give to the Government power to do what it likes “. The honorable member for Calare is trying to salve his conscience by saying, in effect, “ I accept the assurance of the Assistant Treasurer that this or that thing will not happen while at the same time he is voting to give to the Government power to do those things. The honorable gentleman has made a cunning move, for should the Government do something of which he does not personally approve he will be able to throw the whole of the responsibility on the Government. He will however neglect to tell the people that he voted to give that power to the Government.
– It it essential that the Government should have that power.
– It is not essential, and nobody knows it better than the honorable member. What he is trying to do is to have a leg in each camp. Ho wants to have a leg in the camp of those who wish to give the Government dictatorial powers to alter any legislation, and,, if something is done that does not suit him in his electorate, to have the right to condemn the Government for having exercised a power which to-day he is voting to give to it. He must accept the responsibility of his vote. I agree with him that this is the vital clause of the bill, without which the Government would have only restricted powers. This gives to the Executive dictatorial powers. Without qualification I say that, irrespective of the good intentions of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) or the professions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, in a time of emergency - whether it be financial stringency or a case in which it is thought that the liberty of the subject should be restricted - some reason will always be found for exercising the. powers given to the Government by the committee. I remind honorable members that in 1915 the ministry of the day - which I believe was a Labour ministry - did exactly what this Ministry is nowdoing; it passed the War Precautions Act, but within eighteen months another party had” power, and it was not so concerned about fulfilling the promises that had been given by the ministry which had introduced the legislation. Therefore, no honorable member could salve his conscience or square off his vote, by saying that the Minister who gave him the promise was no longer a Minister, or that the Government which gave the pledge was no longer responsible for the administration of the act. Every honorable member has to accept the fullest responsibility for giving to the Government dictatorial powers that will enable it to alter any enactment. In voting for this clause, honorable members will give to the Government, for the duration of the war and six months thereafter, dictatorial powers which will enable it to destroy, emasculate, or interfere with every piece of legislation passed in the history of the Commonwealth. If honorable members like the honorable member for Calare - who wants a feather bed on which to fall in case things go wrong - have any courage, let them say “I vote with an open mind and a clear conscience, with the fullest knowledge of what I am doing; I am giving to the Government dictatorial powers to destroy the very basis upon which I represent the people. I am voting for a dictatorship, and am prepared to stand or fall by my vote “. Judging by the vacillating career of the honorable member for Calare, he will support the Government while the going is good, but when it is bad and his electors begin to feel the pinch of this legislation he will be the first to crawfish out and say “ I relied on the promise of the Minister “. If he has any courage he will say whether he stands for or is opposed to a dictatorship.
– This is a very important clause. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has stated that it confers dictatorial powers on the Government. That is true. But the control of those dictatorial powers will reside not entirely in the hands of the Government but ultimately in this Parliament itself. Therefore there is no analogy between the dictatorship of a totalitarian State, the decrees of which cannot be altered, and a government armed with these powers, whose decrees can be altered by a majority vote in this Parliament.
– Parliament will not be sitting.
– Earlier in the evening I particularly asked for an assurance from the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that there would be reasonably frequent meetings of this Parliament to enable it to have a voice in what was being done, and that assurance was given. I asked for that assurance so that it might again go on record to reinforce the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). There is a. very important point to consider in the constitution of the Government. The British parliamentary system provides for party government and majority rule. As I pointed out earlier, members of the Government party do not represent a majority of the members of this House. It is true that the Government is supported by some honorable members who have not. the privilege of participating in the discussions of the party of which it is composed. The normal British parliamentary practice is that in the party room itself the
– l t is quite obvious that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) also is endeavouring to have a little both ways so that he also may be a hero whatever eventuates. I congratulate the Government upon having discovered a new phase of the New Despotism. I had always imagined that the right honorable member, who is now Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), had in his comparative youth exploited to the full the possibilities of the New Despotism. I had never imagined that I should live to see a peer hid for supremacy against bini and extend the use, the misuse, and the abuse of that method of legislation. Yet, by the grace of Providence, here I am witnessing new efforts being made and new achievements being gained under the New Despotism. Having spoken on this subject earlier last night, and having sat in this chamber through the night, I still have an opportunity to record my appreciation of tho idea of the way in which democratic institutions should work, especially in an emergency. On such an occasion, and still more in a world-war for the preservation of democracy as democracy is on its trial, we should show that we are capable of doing everything that its sponsors have claimed for it. We have departed from those methods, and have introduced the sausage-machine system of legislating. Honorable members opposite can take the full responsibility. I shall make my declaration to my constituents, and to those in the Commonwealth sufficiently interested, that I am ashamed of the methods adopted, and if there is an opportunity to vote I shall oppose the bill.
– I trust that the committee will forgive me if I make one or two short observations at this juncture, but I have listened to a lengthy debate and have not been refreshed by sleep, other than for a few minutes, as have some other honorable members. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) can be highly amusing, but in listening to his speeches one would not think that we were living in extraordinary times and that extraordinary legislation is necessary. Some think that we can go about our work in a normal way, and it would appear that some honorable members are paying heed to the Prime Minister’s suggestion that business be carried on as usual. I support this legislation because of the conditions which prevail, and I share also the responsibility associated with it. I have been a frequent critic of the Government’s defence policy, andI still think that it is inadequate. We should form a division in Australia for overseas or local service at once, because we may be only at the beginning of a great war, and so little has been done. The honorable member for Batman told us only in the past period of the session that, all was well. He frequently asked “ Where isthe enemy of which some are always speaking”.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– The honorable member for Batman was not asked to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I. am asking the honorable member to do so.
– We are passing through troublous times, and emergency legislation must be passed. The honorable member for Batman has at times vilified the British navy, which to-day is safeguarding him and hi3 interests. I feel sure that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will, on reflection, regard his speech as extravagant, and modify it. He attacked the methods adopted by the judiciary in time of war.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Again I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– The clause gives the Government emergency powers, but we have to recall that we are reorganizing our national life, and politically must work at a quickened tempo. Progress cannot, be made by delivering long speeches in Parliament. We are fortunate indeed to be isolated as we are for the moment, while cities and towns in other countries are being pulverized and thousands of people are losing their lives. If a few bombs were dropped in the vicinity of this building this clause would be passed in record time, and instead of honorable members ‘ making two speeches on every clause, and exhausting their time during an all-night sitting, the measure would have been disposed, of by now. As this is an occasion for the passage of emergency legislation to safeguard Australia, I intend to assist the Government, because I believe that as yet we are only beginning to face what may be a very difficult situation.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that the power which this clause proposes to confer is not a dictatorial power, because in the end, Parliament has the control of the Ministry, and can, if it so desires, reject the Government. In the long run, the people have power to reject even a dictator.
– Only by the sword.
– Not necessarily, but by refusing to co-operate by carrying on industry. We are notexpecting that this Government will execute its political opponents, but we know that it may inflict injury upon many of those whom we represent, for example, by weakening the power of trade unions and perhaps even destroying the organizations. The Government will have power to carry out a financial policy at the expense of the masses. The honorable member for Richmond will realize that in the event of financial stringency the members of this House will be relieved of. all legislative responsibility because the Government can by regulation do what it likes. Instead of honorable members having to vote, that’ Government will act for them. It is one thing to regard oneself as a supporter of a bill and another thing to acquiesce -in a regulation. It has been admitted from the Government bench that this clause was not in the bill drafted last year.
– I did not make that statement.
– I do not think the Assistant Treasurer did.
– I said that it was not in the War Precautions Act.
– One Minister definitely stated that this clause was not in the bill drafted last year.
– I said that it was in the British act.
– .Some one on the front bench certainly interjected that it was not in the bill drafted last year. There is this important point of distinction. The Defence of the Realm Act contained this provision, and in the wellknown case of Rex v. Halliday, it was pointed out that the act gave the Government power to overrule existing legislation. That power was never taken in Australia. It was deemed necessary in England; it was never deemed necessary in Australia. Therefore, the English precedent has no more authority for us to-day than it had in the years 1915 and 1916. Although England gave the Executive power to override statutes, we did not adopt the provision, and I cannot see why we should adopt it now. Our position is quite different from that of Great Britain. Obviously, the position of Great Britain is much more dangerous than ours is.
– Because the British navy is protecting us.
– I do not deny that, but the fact remains that Great Britain is in the immediate war zone to a degree that we, at present, are not. For that reason, probably, the British Executive was- given that power to override statutes, but I cannot see why the Commonwealth Executive should ask for power which was not found necessary during the Great War. We have gone far beyond what the Attorney-General thought at that time was necessary. The famous legal draftsman, Sir Robert Garran, did not think it necessary to advise the Commonwealth to take this power, and no amendment of the War Precautions Act was made conferring that power. I think this is a very dangerous provision, and I hope that the committee will reject the clause. I am convinced that if it does not, Parliament, will repent its action.
.- I have sat here all night listening to some very good speeches by members of the legal fraternity, and, for my part, I do not wish to leave this chamber without registering my protest against the measure. I am fully seised, as are other honorable members, of the gravity of the present situation, but I also see that this situation is probably giving substance to a dream for long entertained by some members of the Government to place this country under a dictatorship. I say that this bill is a step in the direction of political insecurity. It tends to encroach on established liberties, to treat democratic institutions with contempt, and to regard democracy itself as an outworn conception. There has been evidence of that trend in the past, and to-day spokesmen of the United Australia party Govern^ ment are pushing us in the direction of a dictatorship. This measure is a diabolical plot against the democratic rights of the people. I register my protest against it, and I hope that on every occasion when the Government takes advantage of this legislation I shall be in. my place to protest again.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Fadden.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
This act, shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer.
– I move -
That the words “ during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ for a period of twelve months “.
This is a very reasonable amendment, and is in accordance with what I indicated during my second-reading speech lastnight. I thenpointed out that similar legislation introduced by the Victorian Government was limited in operation to one year. At the end of that period, if there still exists a need for its continuation, the Government will have to come before Parliament and ask that the legislation be re-enacted. That provides a necessary safeguard.’ If a similar provision were inserted in this measure it would enable honorable members, when the legislation came up for reenactment, to point out any instances of abuse of the far-reaching powers which the Executive enjoyed. The Minister should at least be prepared to go as far as the Victorian Government did in order to meet the objections of honorable members who have pointed out how undemocratic it is to hand over such extensive powers to the Executive.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr.
Forde’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. Fadden.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to. Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– I ask for leave to move -
That the report be adopted.
– Leave refused.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) put -
Thatso much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without, delay.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
The fact that notice of the motion was given by the Prime Minister does not prevent another Minister from moving it. As notice has already been given of the motion a simple majority instead of an absolute majority is required.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion by (Mr. Spender) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented -
Defence Act-Royal Military College - Report for 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for defence purposes -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act -
National Debt Commission - Sixteenth Annual Report, for year 1938-39.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until S.30 p.m. this day.
House adjourned at 8.30 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– All matters concerning payments to and other financial responsibility for members of the Defence Forces are at present under consideration, and an announcement will be made as soon as decisions in regard thereto have been arrived at.
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– I have been in close touch for some time with interests concerned with the production of magnesium products from dolomite deposits in Tasmania, and I have assured these interests that the Council for ‘Scientific and Industrial Research will render all possible assistance. Apart from the technical problems associated with the development of the industry, the question of finding a market for the output of a commercial unit presents difficulties. At present Australia’s imports of magnesium products are small. For example, the total value of magnesium metal and powdered magnesium imported into Australia during 193S-39 was £503 and £402 respectively. Negligible quantities only of metallic magnesium will be used in Australia for the construction of aircraft frames and components. It would, therefore, be necessary for an Australian magnesium industry to rely in the main for some time at least upon exports to Empire or other countries to sustain itself. In this connexion I have already asked the High Commissioner in London to approach the United Kingdom authorities with a view to ascertaining whether the development of an industry in Australia would be regarded as important from an Empire point of view.
k asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I regret that the information desired by the honorable member for the period mentioned is not at present available to the Government. I would, however, invite the honorable member’s attention to The Digest Year Book of Public Companies of Australia and New Zealand for 1939, which contains valuable information in regard to the profits of individual public companies. A copy of this publication is available in the Parliamentary Library.
Assistance to Wheat-growers.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the Library all papers containing reports by the Government geologist, and also the reports submitted by the joint Commonwealth and State mining geologists and mining engineers, in reference to the deposits of iron ore on the Yampi Islands, Western Australia, and the values and the working of such deposits?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
The investigation into thedeposits of iron ore at Yampi are not completed. On the completion of the investigations consideration will be given to the question of laving on the table of the Library all the reports on the matter.
Mr.Price -asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
What is the latest position with reference to interstate telegram rates?
Is it the intention of the Government to abolish interstate charges; if so, when?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Liquid Fuels-: Production from Fruit.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
In view of the anticipated big crop of both dried fruit and wine grapes, will the Government in this time of national -need, again have a searching investigation made into the question of treating the huge surplus of these productsso as to produce power alcohol?
y. - The technique of the production of power alcohol from fresh and dried grapes is already well known, but the economics of production are such as to discourage the development of the industry unless liquid fuels cannot be obtained from other more favorable sources. According to the Government’s technical officers, taking the value of power alcohol at 12d. per gallon, a distillery would not be able to pay anything for raw material in the form of fresh and dried grapes in the volume in which they would probably be available. The whole of that amount would be taken up in processing. The Commonwealth Standing Committee on Liquid Fuels has expressed the opinion that molasses is undoubtedly the most economical raw material for the manufacture of power alcohol, hut, even in the case of molasses, the cost of the spirit is about four times the cost of imported petrol.
e asked the Minister for Trade end Customs, upon notice -
What progress has the Tariff Board made in connexion with its inquiry into the tinned plate industry?
– The Tariff Board’s report has been received and is being considered.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am making a statement on this matter to-day.
n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is he now in a position to state the result of Sir Leopold Savile’s visit to Australia in connexion with his report and investigation into the question of a suitable Bite for a dry dock for capital ships?
– No. Sir Leopold Savile has yet to consider the information he obtained regarding various ports in Australia, and Ms report will not be rendered until his return to England.
Detention of Enemy Subjects.
d asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390907_reps_15_161/>.